I am Emily Harvey and I’m a Riverside alumna currently at VCU. I began exhibiting characteristics of dyslexia at a very young age. At my public elementary school, the teachers and administration didn’t understand me and didn’t know how to teach someone like me. Although I was young, I can remember feeling different from other kids. That is the first strong emotion I can remember feeling. Fortunately, instead of repeating first grade, I started at Riverside at age 7 in the ’98-’99 school year.
My experience at Riverside was vastly different. I didn’t experience the anxiety of being left behind by the teacher. I finally received the attention that I needed to succeed. What I needed was individualized, one-on-one education, and Riverside gave me just that. My Language Fundamentals classes in particular were helpful. To this day I use strategies I learned in LF. For example, I was taught Touch Points for counting. Being taught touch points felt like I was learning a secret trick. Pencil facilitation is also something I carry with me today.
In addition to my education, Riverside provided me with an environment in which I felt accepted. I felt like I truly belonged there, and I was able to connect socially with my peers for the first time. That was my favorite aspect of going to Riverside. Every student shared a common bond. We were provided a supportive and positive learning and social environment, which I think is very important for a young dyslexic. I still keep in touch with many of my Riverside classmates to this day.
When college became more of a reality for me, I began to think about what I wanted to major in. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I looked through the majors offered at VCU and felt like I wasn’t going to be able to do any of them. Eventually I chose Mass Communications. Honestly, I originally chose this major because it didn’t require many math classes! But the more communications classes I took, the more interesting it became. Eventually I took on a Public Relations concentration and that’s when I really fell in love with it. Now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
I’m so lucky to have been able to attend Riverside. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to receive an education from teachers who understood me and truly wanted me to succeed. After Riverside, I still had struggles and faced educators who were oblivious to learning disabilities, but all of those difficulties gave me the gift of perseverance and the ability to advocate for myself.
Even long after I left Riverside, it was still there for me. I was lucky enough to have an LF teacher, Michelle Estes, tutor me in math while I was attending John Tyler. Riverside continues today to help me succeed by giving me the opportunity for an internship during my last semester at VCU. Riverside has helped me immeasurably to get to where I am and I am so thankful!