Teen Entrepreneur Making Her Own Way in the World
I was identified with dyslexia when I was in kindergarten. When it came time to learn letters and sounds I was developing more slowly than my peers and my teachers recognized that although I was very bright and outgoing I wasn’t developing reading skills as quickly as my peers. I had veteran educators with over 20 years of experience by my side. I was in a supportive environment, and I attended some of the most well resourced public schools in Monterey County. I had access to resource professionals who also had extensive experience working with children with learning differences. My parents read to me every night and entertained vibrant discussions that helped me build an impressive vocabulary at a young age.
I had parents who advocated on my behalf and monitored my academic progress along the way. They worked closely with a whole team of professionals coaching me throughout my elementary education on the value of my learning difference. I was very much in a protected space where learning was nurtured and experiential.
I learned that it was impossible to go to school and expect to have the information be poured into my brain on its own. I learned to be a self- starter, to be strategic, and to be adaptive. I never made the mistake of succumbing to the debilitation of dyslexia in school because I always pursued alternative measures of success outside of the classroom.
When I was a freshman in high school I realized that if I was ever going to get into college I would have to do something that seemed “ground breaking.” My grades were mediocre and time was running out. I attended a small conservative all-girls catholic high school in the rural town of Salinas, California where careers in math, science, and technology were encouraged, but not popular. At the time, “ground breaking” was doing what no one else around me was doing. It was pretty obvious for me what I needed to do.
In my spare time I taught myself through You Tube videos and forums about building computers. I became very interested in hardware and overclocking and eventually built my first computer when I was 14. It was a simple start, but it opened my mind to the world of entrepreneurship and what was possible outside of school, and ultimately that it could lead me to some other ground breaking opportunity that would all prove part of a compelling college application. It did.
After investing in parts to build and sell a few computers, and becoming oriented with hardware, I decided to apply for a job with the Department of Defense. It was clearly a long shot for a 15 year old girl with such a limited understanding of computers, but I figured the worst the Federal government could do was say “No.”
I interviewed once, and was hired. The only thing that held me back was my age. I was too young. In order to work for the Department of Defense, the legal age is 16 so I had a to wait a few months. Regardless of the wait time, I had found something outside of school that I could excel in. Something that I was passionate about and few other people were doing. After proving the naysayers wrong, people began to take me seriously. I have kept a job year round during school ever since. It’s my anchor where I link what I’m learning in school with real world applications.
Today, I am a full time undergraduate student at Mills College, and the mentee of a highly successful commercial real estate investor and philanthropist.
If nothing else, dyslexia has forced me to make my own way in the world. Perhaps this is why there are so many entrepreneurs who identify as being dyslexic. I found a way to make dyslexia work for me, and not the other way around.
– T. Soares