Community Service and My Future

Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

In the summer of 2016, I met Dimitria, an eight-year-old native of southeast Atlanta, at Park Avenue Baptist Church’s literacy camp, an effort to reduce the local high school’s 68% drop out rate. On the surface, she seemed like the other soon-to-be third graders: obsessed with watching Disney Channel, jumping rope, and braiding hair. When it came to reading out loud, however, it was as if she hit a wall; she would melt down, cry, and completely withdraw from the group. I initially concluded she was hungry or tired, but, after closely watching her the next day, it dawned on me that Dimitria could not read. Instead, she had devised coping mechanisms to get by, like recognizing shapes of words and letters, rather than actually reading them – mechanisms that did not always work. Although I understood that the children I was working with were underprivileged, that didn’t alleviate the sting I felt when I realized that this delightful girl had been failed not only by her teachers, but by many other adults in her life as well.

Sadly, Dimitria isn’t the only child like this, and she probably won’t be the last. This deficit, the inability to read and write adequately enough for functioning in society, affects 14% -- or 32 million -- of...

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