Dec. 5, 2010
By Jon Cooper
College years can be years of discovery for young men and women.
That can be good and bad.
Sometimes it can be both at once.
In her freshman year of college at the University of Florida, softball player Kristine Priebe discovered she was LD/ADHD (learning disabled/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). It was a condition that she refused to let negatively affect her life then, and now, in her senior year at Georgia Tech, is something she’s refusing to allow affect the lives of others with similar diagnoses.
“Sometimes you don’t recognize that you have a learning disability until you get to college because the level of academics is so high,” said the Moorpark, Calif., native. “I’ve finally gotten a hold of things. It took me a while to adjust but now I can share the things that I went through with these little kids.”
The little kids of whom Priebe speaks are students at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Atlanta.
They are beneficiaries of the work of Priebe, and other volunteer mentors in a program called Project Eye-To-Eye, which is overseen by Georgia Tech’s ADAPTS Disability Services Program.
Project Eye-To-Eye began in 1998, the brainchild of a group of students from Brown University, who were labeled LD/ADHD and started working with local elementary school students who had similar learning disabilities. The students did art projects with the kids, which allowed them to express themselves, develop self-esteem and positive self-image.
The Georgia Tech chapter of Project Eye-To-Eye is one of 30 located around the United States.
“Every Monday we’re going to Kennedy Middle School,” Priebe said. “We’re trying to be role models and mentors. We facilitate discussions, we do an art project every week and we facilitate discussion through those artwork projects. We’re trying to build their self-esteem and their life skills, trying to show them how to be independent and how to have academic success with learning disabilities and ADHD.”
Priebe is working primarily with seventh-grade boys. While they can be a tough group to get through to, she has found that her standing as a Division-I athlete at an esteemed academic institution, in addition to being someone who has struggled with the same issues they have, makes opening up easier.
“It kind of creates a safe house for everyone to open up to each other and feel accepted and move forward,” she said. “Seventh-grade boys aren’t exactly the opening-up types but once you can get in there and get them to open up, it’s very rewarding. Every week it gets easier. It’s really cool seeing them opening up.
“The biggest thing is to let them know that there are plenty of people out there that are going through the same things that they’re going through,” she added. “They have a lot of support and there’s a lot of things that they can do and help that they can get.”
Priebe plans on taking on more of a leadership role in a program that is making such a profound difference in the lives of all involved.
“For them to see somebody going to Georgia Tech and having great success gives them a lot of hope. They look up to us,” she said. “One of my favorite things is playing a softball game and have them look up to me after the game.
“Next semester, if I pick up more of a leadership role I plan to bring in more people and make people more aware about it.”
For more information on Georgia Tech’s ADAPTS Disability Services Program, visit www.adapts.gatech.edu/index.php.
For more on Project Eye-To-Eye go to www.projecteyetoeye.org/home.html.