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Kidsburgh: Program In Pittsburgh Pairs Kids With Learning Disabilities With Mentors

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- One in five children in the U.S. has a learning disability. Yet these kids often feel alone.

At the University of Pittsburgh, college students have been mentoring students from Pittsburgh Schiller STEAM Academy for 10 years through the Eye to Eye program.

Pitt student and mentor Meera Shamiyeh says, "I honestly just wanted to let other kids know that this isn't something that has to really hinder you in life, that you can be successful, and you can succeed even having a learning difference or learning disability."

College student Lydia Blazey said, "Being able to use what I've been through as lessons for other people kind of helps me look at my own struggles in a more positive light."

These Pitt students and others meet weekly with the middle school students for organized activities that develop self-confidence and help with living with a learning disability. They enjoy mentoring younger people like them, including 14-year-old Ariana Grogan.

"I get to learn and get to be a part of it and get to learn more about the students from Pitt," Grogan said.

David Flink is the co-founder and CEO of Eye to Eye. He was the first mentor with the program, but until sixth grade, he didn't know he had dyslexia and ADHD.

"If you were to go back and find the young David Flink and ask, 'How did you like school?' I would have told you, 'It's awful. I feel stupid every day,'" Flink told KDKA's Kristine Sorensen.

Flink got help once he was diagnosed, went on to Brown University, and he and a dozen other college students with disabilities founded Eye to Eye in 1998. They knew they were the exception and that most kids with learning disabilities don't go to college. In fact, kids with learning disabilities have the highest dropout rate.

Flink said, "Most people who learn differently don't ever make it to college. And so we thought, well, how can we change this narrative and how can we, perhaps, do something to be of help?"

Eye to Eye has served 56,000 people directly or indirectly across the country through mentoring programs, teacher training and clubs.

It's improving self-esteem, helping kids advocate for what they need, and helping them graduate from high school and college.

"Being able to talk to people who have the same issues as you can just make such a difference in feeling better about yourself and feeling like you're not alone," Blazey said.

Click here for more on Eye to Eye.

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