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Paying It Forward: Former WRS Student Receives Leadership Award

Man with briefcase holding a book.

Andrew knows what it’s like to have someone willing to go the extra mile to ensure his success. Now, he’s being recognized for paying it forward.

A forensic accountant consultant and Wilson Reading System® (WRS) graduate, Andrew has just been named one of Consulting®magazine’s 2023 Rising Stars of the Profession for excellence in leadership.

“My bosses nominated me for this award because of my commitment to helping the junior staff learn and develop a culture that enables them to succeed,” he explained.

The energy he puts into supporting junior staff echoes the energy poured into him when he encountered reading difficulties as a child.

Understanding the Struggle

When Andrew was in kindergarten, his parents noticed he showed no interest in books and could not match letters to their sounds, despite having a large, expressive vocabulary. By second grade, Andrew was aware that he couldn’t read as well as his classmates. Like many private schools at the time, his school didn’t provide screening or resources for students with learning disabilities. His parents began advocating for his needs to be met in other ways.

“I’m very fortunate that my parents took such a strong stance in support of my education,” Andrew said. “They had my school put me in a special program during the school day. It was good, but it wasn’t what I needed.”

He couldn’t keep up with the other students in the special program; his teachers didn’t know how to help him. Instead, Andrew passed through elementary school without making progress in his reading skills. He continuously read more than two grade levels below his peers.

“That’s when my mom started researching different types of learning,” he stated.

Andrew’s mother took him to a neuropsychologist for evaluation. Andrew was diagnosed with dyslexia and a lack of phonemic awareness—the ability to identify and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words. The neuropsychologist was familiar with WRS and told Andrew’s mother that her son needed a WRS tutor.

Since there was no Wilson® Certified tutor in the area, Andrew’s mother first traveled to Chicago to learn about the program. She then went to Maine to study the program and become certified to teach it.

Andrew’s mother began delivering WRS instruction to him when he was in the fifth grade. WRS was not an overnight solution to Andrew’s reading difficulties; it’s a rigorous program that requires a lot of focus and work. The program initially proved to be challenging for him, especially as the only child with dyslexia in the family.

“Having siblings who didn’t struggle the same way I did was pretty difficult,” Andrew explained. “They got to go do whatever they wanted, but I had to sit down and focus and try to read.”

Over time and with much effort, Andrew gained the literacy skills needed to become an independent reader. He kept working on his lessons even though it wasn’t his favorite activity.

“I remember a lot of tears because I was putting in the hard work to do this. It was extremely difficult,” Andrew recalled. “But I remember the persistence that my mom had in helping me through.”

Andrew never gave up, and neither did his mother. It took some time and work, but their efforts were rewarded.

“It was maybe in the late stages of high school or in college when it really felt like I could keep up with and maintain the pace at school. Even to this day, I feel like I have to work so much harder than other people,” Andrew said.

He admitted it was difficult for him to understand some topics because of his learning disability, but his mother helped him find different ways to approach the information and get what he needed from it. In addition, his private school gave him useful study skills to survive and succeed at college.

Helping Others Succeed

Because of his experience with hard work under competent and compassionate tutelage, Andrew doesn’t shy away from a challenge or an opportunity to help others grow and learn.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s degree in accounting, and a certified public accountant’s license, he began to work for a large firm that gave him opportunities to gain new skills and fostered his love of teaching—something that his mother modeled for him.

Andrew’s firm had a mentorship model designed to help junior staff succeed. Several weeks each year, he would travel to various locations to help train staff. “Working there helped me realize that I had such good teachers in the past who helped me understand things,” Andrew said. “I wanted to do the same thing for other people.”

When Andrew moved on to his current position, he continued to train and support junior staff members at his new company. He wanted them to have a clear path to success, applying a skill he had learned from his days using WRS: persistence. For Andrew, his hard work and his mother’s persistence paid off—now he’s paying it forward as a mentor and encourager.

What advice does Andrew have for others on their literacy journey? “Persistence builds character. When you have to push through and persevere, you have such a great level of satisfaction when you get through it and have that breakthrough moment.”

Learn how Andrew’s dyslexia diagnosis changed his mother’s career.