Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Support Antwon Calhoun-Star Child

I, Terilynn Langsev, am writing on behalf of Antwon Calhoun, a 19 year old who has been admitted to Curry College as a freshman for the fall of 2010.

Ten years ago, I was a volunteer tutor in a 3rd grade class and was paired with a bright, engaging, charming boy who was far below grade level in reading and writing. As I worked with Antwon, it became apparent to his teacher and me that his reading challenges were significant and that I was not able to help him.

When I sought services from Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto California, he was tested and diagnosed with an expressive and receptive language processing disorder, as well as ADHD and a math disability. His strengths were his gross motor skills, perception, speed, agility, and coordination and his intelligence was within normal range. With this information we knew that he could learn, but needed specialized instruction and assistance. Antwon began working with an educational therapist, Dr. Rebecca Payne, who made great progress with him and helped him keep up with his class work through fifth and sixth grades.
Since he was six months old, he as been raised by his grandmother, Dorothy Stewart, who worked full time and suffers from serious health problems. When I first meet Ms. Stewart, she asked that I help her advocate for services for Antwon in the public schools; due to her ongoing health issues, she has asked that I continue to represent her on his behalf. Dr. Payne and a child advocate attorney, who both volunteered their time, and I continued to advocate for services for him in the public schools through eighth grade. 

While the public schools did provide additional support for Antwon, it became clear that they had neither the expertise nor the resources adequately to address the needs of a student with his type of learning difference. By the end of eighth grade, Antwon was far behind his grade level and was also beginning to have discipline problems in school. 

At that point, I was told by the public high school special education coordinator that if Antwon attended the local public high school, he would be put in classes with severely disabled students and would be on track to receive a “certificate of completion” instead of a diploma. They were saying that the best they could do for this young man was to baby-sit him for four years. This was unacceptable.

After a nationwide search of appropriate independent schools, I found a placement for him at a Pine Ridge, a boarding school in Vermont which specializes in teaching students with learning differences. It was a dramatic change and difficult adjustment for him to attend a boarding school across the country. To his credit, he managed to make great progress both academically and personally. After two years in Vermont he was admitted to what is considered the most highly-regarded high school for students with language based learning differences – Landmark School in Massachusetts.

In his two years at Landmark Antwon flourished personally and made tremendous progress academically. He participated in the chorus both years and performed in New York as part of the annual chorus tour. He was on a panel to answer questions and give campus tours to prospective students and their families, played lacrosse, and was on the wrestling team. Even though it was just his second year at Landmark, Antwon was elected Student Body President his senior year. He was accepted to four colleges and universities with support programs for students with learning differences, and has elected to attend Curry College in Milton Mass. where he hopes to play football and plans to study business communications.

The fact that Antwon has graduated from high school and has been accepted to college is a tremendous accomplishment, not just from the standpoint of his learning disability, but also from the personal circumstances that surround him. Antwon has had little contact with his mother, and even less with his father. Antwon was raised by his grandmother and her life partner, Mr. Mack Mc Clendon. Due to Ms. Stewart’s ongoing health issues, Antwon’s home environment was often unstable and unstructured. He was raised in an “at risk” neighborhood with numerous temptations and opportunities to become involved with illegal and/or dangerous activities. Antwon is a first generation high school graduate and college attendee.

Financially he is considered “independent” meaning that there is no expected support from his immediate family. Ms. Stewart has not been able to work for over five years. She receives a monthly disability payment, a small monthly retirement payment from her former employer, and she has no savings. Mr. Mc Clendon is retired and living on a fixed income, and, while not legally Antwon’s relative or guardian, has offered to contribute as much as he can towards Antwon’s tuition, as well as pay for much of his personal needs and travel to and from school.

Antwon has overcome a variety of difficult life circumstances to get this far. While not unique, his life challenges indicate a significant level of need and did qualify him for the highest possible amount of financial aid. Curry College has awarded him a generous financial aid package, and he has assumed a significant loan debt to achieve his dream of higher education. 

However, there remains a gap between the amount of aid and the total cost of attending Curry College. His grandparents, other adults supporters of his, and I have contributed a combined amount of $9,000. Details of his tuition requirements and current funding are below. The first priority is to raise enough funds to bridge the gap between the financial resources currently available to Antwon and the total cost of tuition and fees: $12,000. If funds are raised beyond this, they would be used to reduce the amount of his student loans.

Cost of attendance:
Tuition $29,300
Room and Board $12,190
Support Program $6,550
Fees $3,788
Total Cost $51,818

Current Financial Resources:
Federal Grants $6,550
Curry Grants, Scholarships and Awards $14,700
Federal Loans $9,500
Family/Friends Contributions $9,000
Total $39,750
Difference yet to fund: $12,068

Antwon is seeking assistance from individuals, private businesses, organizations and/or foundations that are motivated to support his goal of achieving a college degree. 
 For additional information on how you can assist him. Please contact me at 805.687.2279.

Thank you for your consideration of Antwon’s situation,
Terilynn Langsev

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