Reading specialist: “Literacy intervention can give freedom and choices” to the poor and disabled

Erin Grigg_HeadShot JJWomen with dark skin drew me to the field of literacy. In Bolivia, people with the lightest skin are considered to be more beautiful, educated, and wealthy. Their skin is light because they were afforded the luxury of going to school indoors, working indoors and wearing sunscreen. The majority of people in Bolivia, women especially, have thick, dark, wrinkled skin and strong bodies. They farm and rear children in the hot sun at 9,000 feet above sea level their entire lives. They do not have time for school, as they need to tend to their farm to survive while many of their husbands spend the money they have on coca leaves and alcohol.

The children of these women do not go to school regularly because they also need to help cook and farm and raise children. They are often translators for their mothers who do not speak Spanish, but a language called Quechua. I was honored to teach a group of these women emergent Spanish literacy with the help of a few of their feisty bilingual children. They shared with me their desire to learn Spanish so they could sell their beautiful hand-woven wool blankets to tourists and gain freedom.

When I returned to the United States, I was dedicated to learning how to effectively teach literacy to those who may remain oppressed by their illiteracy. I am now studying to become a reading specialist at Columbia University, a place I never imagined my ADHD self would be capable attending. I was not diagnosed with ADHD until I was 20 years old, after years of therapy and incorrect diagnoses. I moved to Bolivia in the first place because I had just finished college and needed some time away from the structure of school. I ended my undergraduate degree in English strong; however, everyone in my family was surprised I even graduated high school.

My experience in education was a long, frustrating process. I am only now really figuring out how to effectively study and organize my work. When I was first diagnosed with ADHD I was frustrated with my all of my previous teachers and my parents for not knowing what was wrong, or helping me learn in a way that I could be successful. Now, I am grateful for the hardship, and I believe it has made me a more unique and passionate educator. As a reading specialist, I plan to continue to work in elementary schools where early literacy intervention can give freedom and choices to students with disabilities and students in low-income communities who often do not receive the right kind of teaching to support their unique way of learning. I want to be able to help the students I work with, and also help other teachers learn how to understand and teach students with differences.

We are proud to announce Erin Grigg is one of the current JustJobs Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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  • Amyn Rajan

    Congratulations on winning the scholarship Erin. Your story is very inspiring. Best of luck in your future endeavors!

  • Jamie Jarvis

    The benefits of literacy are far-reaching. With the potential to improve an
    individual’s access to information, self-esteem, and economic standing, it can
    truly advance a culture from the ground up. In short, literacy pays it forward. Erin will bring her remarkable insight, sensitivity, drive, and creative problem solving to an important and worthwhile mission. Awarding Erin this scholarship will yield a great return on

  • Sandy Posluns

    I was moved by Erin’s personal story and impressed by her ability to find the silver lining created from her own personal struggles. She clearly has the passion and training to make a monumental difference in children’s lives. With Erin’s determination, she will give the gift of literacy to many and will change the world one student at a time. Good luck Erin!

  • Kaylin Goodwin

    This write-up especially hits close to home with having a brother with ADHD and also being a registered nurse. I think it is inspiring that Erin has “conquered” and embraced her diagnosis and is truly using it for the betterment of the society. I think it is good that Erin was able to experience Boliva and strive to help others with reading literacy and also have that reflect in her teachings here in the United States. With her motivation and dedication I think she would be a great candidate for this scholarship!

  • Mary Winter

    Erin, you’re an inspiration. It’s rare to hear from/about people your age who have such a calling and such an appreciation of the power of education. It took courage to write what you did, just as it took courage to plow ahead when you didn’t really know what was holding you back. Your students will certainly benefit from all your experience and character. My compliments on your essay. It says a lot in very few words, and that is the mark of a true pro.

  • Anna Scherer

    Erin, Much of your story is the same for my daughter. She had always struggled to do well in school and had several diagnosed Learning disabilities. She is struggling to pass a state exam that won’t much matter to teaching lower grades. She is a child whisperer and as you are, will be a valuable asset to the teaching community with the insight of learning disabilities. Best of luck to you.

  • Nancy Nelson

    Erin Grigg has a tremendous asset in addressing reading problems and that is the empathy that comes from overcoming her own educational challenges. She clearly has a passion to bring the written word to those that might not otherwise have the opportunity to read. I have no doubt that she is deserving of this scholarship and will make an excellent ambassador!

  • Beth

    I am a fellow educator and love to see this insight in our up and coming educators! Kudos Erin!

  • Marie Roesler

    Erin is an amazing young woman and has great passion to help people. I have worked with the Quechua Indians of Ecuador and know what a powerful effect their hard and simple lives can leave on someone. Erin is honest and dedicated. She is so deserving of this scholarship and would go onto not only teach students, but to inspire them as well.

  • Kari Lynn Grabowsky

    I believe that teachers who have themselves had to overcome obstacles to learn bring a special level of empathy to their positions – and improve the art of educating others through their special insight. Congratulations Erin!

  • Rosella Kvernen

    The world needs more teachers like Erin, teachers who understand their students, not just the subject they teach. Her life experience motivates her to help others who struggle like she did. This scholarship will help her reach the goal of helping her students triumph.

  • Bonnie Bayley

    Erin’s struggle with her own learning style allows her to be compassionate to those who also have challenges. She brings to the table empathy and determination to help young children and adults achieve reading and speaking skills that they might not otherwise gain. Clearly Erin would make the most of a scholarship giving back what she received. I am impressed with her tenacity.

  • Davida Fromm

    Erin Grigg is the real deal. No embellishment, no drama, just honest to goodness determination and passion to use her knowledge and talent to bring literacy to those who need assistance. Her commitment and enthusiasm are obvious and irresistible when she talks or writes about her goals. This award will make a difference for her and all the children lucky enough to work with her.

  • cynthia macfarlan

    What a deserving individual of this admirable award. She would honor and bring forth the essence of this scholarship. Her positive energy and devotion to helping others and ability to be present with each person she meets at their level and touch their lives to raise them up is a gift that will keep on giving.

  • Carol Cornelius

    Erin has a beautiful heart for people of all ages in bringing literacy to all. Her work in South America and the Bronx has touched so many lives. She is passionate and dedicated to spreading literacy globally and she is deserving of this scholarship!

  • Matt Lynn

    I met Erin in Bolivia when she was working with the women she spreaks of here. I have not met many others who are so passionate, creative and as dedicated as she is. Her ability to connect with almost anyone seems effortless. I am fortunate to call Erin a good friend of mine now, but I am sure there is no one more deserving of this scholarship than she is.