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The Carletonian

Student organization tackles learning disability stigma in Northfield

<rleton’s Eye To Eye chapter has separated from its national parent organization. Co-leaders Gabriel Lobet ’21 and Rebecca Margolis ’21 will continue the club’s work independently.

Eye To Eye is a national organization that pairs middle school students with learning disabilities with college and high school students who also have learning disabilities. According to Margolis and Lobet, Eye To Eye was unsuccessful at implementing its program within the Northfield middle schools.

“We felt some tension with how Eye To Eye was going about their process. Northfield is a small community—it’s pretty insular—and Eye To Eye was coming in and saying ‘Look, we have this program. You should implement this.’ It was also expensive, and I think the schools didn’t react kindly to Eye To Eye coming in and telling them that they needed this,” said Margolis.

Margolis has successfully worked with Eye to Eye in the past. “I ran an Eye To Eye chapter in high school and saw an immense amount of change because of it,” she said. “Not only did I find that students became more comfortable advocating for themselves, but teachers began asking questions about how they could accommodate students with learning disabilities better.”

Margolis and Lobet share Eye to Eye’s goals: to build a community of students with learning disabilities on campus; to do advocacy and awareness work on campus and in Northfield; and to make connections with families with young students in Northfield.

“Coming into Carleton, I was kind of sad that I was going to lose that community [of students with learning disabilities], and I know that at an elite university, disabilities can be very hush hush,” said Margolis. “I came in freshman year knowing I wanted to develop this community, because like a lot of other schools, disability is still really under-talked about, especially when it comes to conversations about equity and diversity. Having a student group on campus that solely focused on that could be very beneficial.”

Margolis and Lobet seek to create visibility and support networks for students with learning disabilities on campus. In the next year, they aim to hold several community events in Northfield, where people can share their experiences of living with a learning disability with those unfamiliar with learning disabilities.

The club also plans to hold advocacy events on campus to raise awareness of students with learning disabilities at Carleton and to inform them of school resources. “Even in the last few weeks I can count three people in my head who’ve come up to me and said ‘Hey, I have accommodations. What do I do?’ Some of it is just because there isn’t really one central thing to provide all that information.” The club has also discussed holding film screenings and facilitating faculty trainings on learning disability accommodation.

“Sometimes faculty can view accommodations as just the ‘easy way out’ or are not always understanding how they can be beneficial.” Margolis and Lobet are working to change this rhetoric.

With these events, Margolis and Lobet aim to develop a strong community for students with learning disabilities and to create a space where club members can understand each other’s unique struggles in the Carleton environment.

“Now that we have another co-leader and a pretty strong base of sophomores and freshmen who are really excited about the work we’re doing, it matters less that we’re under this big national organization,” said Margolis. “It just matters that we’re doing something to create visibility and awareness on campus.”

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