Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Whoopie Goldberg have two things in common. First, they all suffered from learning disabilities. Second, their photos line a wall in The Learning Center on Hilton Head Island, serving as inspiration to the students there.
The inspiration for the center came from Malcolm Goodridge of Beaufort, who overcame dyslexia and ultimately had a successful career starting at Citibank and ending with 25 years at American Express. Goodridge, along with Magic Johnson, Cher and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean received national recognition from the Lab School of Washington, D.C., in 1988 for overcoming dyslexia.
Goodridge said it was his dyslexia that afforded him the opportunity to develop additional skills, such as persistence, perseverance, organization and self-discipline. Those skills have benefited him all of his adult life, he said, and contributed to his self-confidence and success. He hopes The Learning Center will be a place that helps many other students develop those skills.
Programs at The Learning Center are designed to provide specialized instruction to college-bound students with “learning differences,” a term Goodridge prefers to “learning disabilities.” The mission of The Learning Center is to transform students with learning differences into confident, self-directed learners, both in and beyond the classroom. Those students are referred to The Learning Center by their schools.
"The Learning Center makes it fun to learn," said Allison Blake, a seventh-grade student. "I used to have a hard time reading, especially long words, but now it's so much easier for me, and reading is fun. I know the work in middle and upper school will get harder, and I also know I'm learning good strategies that will help me as I keep moving up."
According to the National Institutes of Health, 15 percent of the U.S. population, or one in seven Americans, has some type of learning difference. The school population is no exception. The Learning Center, which held its grand opening on Nov. 5, is currently serving about eight to 10 students and officials there expect those numbers will rise to at least 50 in the next three years.
Goodridge is working closely with Herb Gray, chairman of Beaufort Academy, a college preparatory school, and Randy Wall, headmaster of Beaufort Academy.
The center has also received support from the Beaufort County School District and the Beaufort County community. In two-and-a-half years, fundraising efforts yielded approximately $778,000 from about 185 people or organizations. The center is privately supported and has an endowment of $280,000 to award scholarships.
Goodridge has high hopes for the future of the center and its students.
“I have learned that being dyslexic is my greatest asset,” he said. “It’s important to remember that it’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce in life that matters most.”
For more information about The Learning Center, call Susan DiFabio at 843-524-3393.