Tutoring Angels!

On May 17, our Bishop's daughter, Taylor, was awarded the Autism Awareness Female Choir Scholarship at her high school.
As part of the application process Taylor wrote an essay regarding her experiences with special needs children, including Ethan. I first learned of this in a text message from our Bishop. After reading the essay, I asked for permission to blog about it--for obvious reasons. In my exchange with the Bishop I expressed my gratitude for Taylor for her selfless service. Our kind Bishop responded: 
Ethan has been a tremendous influence on Taylor. What seemed like doing your family a service by picking up where Morgan left off two years ago has become one of those life altering experiences for Taylor. In fact, she will be attending the Fulton Teachers College at ASU this fall and has decided to minor in special education with a focus on autism.
In recognition of Ethan's Angelic Tutor I present Taylor's essay here for your reading pleasure.
~ ~ ~

We all know someone with a handicap or disability; they are all around us. Have you ever stopped to really get to know them? Over the last two years I have been part of the Peer Facilitation class at Boulder Creek High School. In this class, students from average classes are paired with a special needs student and are assigned a class hour with them. During this hour, it is the Peer Facilitator’s (or Tutor’s) job to assist their assigned student with their work; whether it is a math, English, or science class. The student I have been paired with through my two years in this program is a very special boy, Ethan Kornegay. 

I have known Ethan since I was in third grade and he was in second. Our families have always been close and his journey has immensely impacted my life. Ethan was born with Autism, a disorder of neural development that is seen in impaired social interaction and communication. Because of this, Ethan behaves differently than most other children his age. He still loves to have fun, watch movies, and play on the computer like most teenage boys his age but for him, it looks a little different. Instead of begging to go see the newest thriller with his friends, Ethan is content to sit on his couch with all of his stuffed animals and watch movies like The Land Before Time or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While most teenage boys play the latest video games and spend their computer time on social networking sites, Ethan enjoys looking up every little fact about things he loves, mainly movies. To his family and friends, Ethan is a sweet, talented boy, the best actor and director, and the greatest comedian.

Having known Ethan for so long, I was thrilled with the opportunity to work more closely and intimately with him in a school setting. Both years we, through the Peer Facilitation program, have been math partners in a pull out setting. During class, Ethan and I work together to master new concepts and complete his work. This ensures that instead of just sitting in class absorbing nothing, Ethan is better able to be an active member of his classroom. In the grade book it looks like I was the one to make the difference, helping him better understand his math. In my eyes however, it was and is the opposite. Ethan has taught me many things through his daily example and different obstacles that we have faced together. Through him I have learned patience when life becomes overwhelming, how to smile just because I’m alive, and how to find joy in the simple things in life. He has become a very important part of my life, both at home and at school.

Through this program, I have been blessed to meet a large group of amazing kids like Ethan. Each face their own challenge; some mental, some social, some developmental, and some anger. Each child I have met has had a hand in shaping the person that I am now. I have learned lessons about life and myself that, without them, I would not have learned. They keep me on my toes and constantly looking forward to my seventh hour, an hour most seniors would dread going to everyday.

Let me introduce you to some of these angels on earth....

Taylor then wrote about several other special needs students that she has come to know at school, and how they have impacted her life. For their privacy I have excluded that portion of the essay.
...Each of these students have become more than just students in a classroom to me, they have become family. All of these children have endured daunting challenges in their lives, yet face each new day with a smile. Because of them I have learned to do the same. Life will never be easy, but it will be worth it.

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