Evening of desserts, donors helps programs for learning disabled

Feb. 18, 2013 @ 05:34 PM
  • What: Dessert Gala and Benefit for Grace Christian School's Individualized Learning Center
  • When: 7-8:30 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Grace Chapel Church Sanctuary; 2605 Jefferson Davis Highway, Sanford
  • Who: Desserts from Mrs. Lacy's, Sandra's Bakery, Sweet Frog and Dandalia Bakery.
  • Costs: $25 for one raffle ticket (for a Ford Explorer giveaway); $100 for five tickets.


A fund-raiser this Saturday will give money to programs for children with learning disabilities, and one lucky donor will win an SUV in return for his or her charity.

Grace Christian School is having a dessert gala from 7-8:30 Saturday night to benefit the school's Individualized Learning Center, which helps students at the school with learning disabilities. There will be desserts from several local businesses and individuals, as well as a drawing for a 2005 Ford Explorer. Tickets for the raffle are $25 apiece, or $100 for five, and are available at the school's office.

The Individualized Leaning Center has been up and running since 1995, during which time it has served 178 students. The school has since added services and programs from the Creative Education Institute, the National Institute of Learning Development and Switched-on Schoolhouse, all aimed at helping students with issues ranging from dyslexia to ADHD and other afflictions that keep them from catching up to their classmates.

"Our students all have an average or high IQ, but in the classroom, they're identified as a slow learner," said Lynn Kruger, who heads up the school's series of specialized programs.

She said as many as one in five students nationwide has some form of dyslexia and that there's a higher percentage in Christian schools, which she said is largely due to parents being drawn to the smaller class sizes and different programs private schools offer. But she said the school can only help those students if it's able to fund the programs they need.

Headmaster Bill Carver said he's strongly supportive of the specialized instruction because of how he's seen students improve.

"They have a vision of where they want to be but have this hurdle in their way," Carver said. "What this does is give them a vehicle to get over that hurdle."

Diane Kannarr said her son Evan, a junior at the school, has been diagnosed with the most severe form of dyslexia and would never have been as successful academically as he is now without these programs. She said that in addition to academic help for his dyslexia — a condition that can't be cured but can be controlled — her son also received general guidance, like being encouraged to speak up for himself more and to deal with his issues in a proactive manner.

"Now I know if he goes out to college and I'm not there to mother him, he'll know where and how to ask for help if he needs it," she said.

Kannarr said that as a business and marketing professor at Central Carolina Community College, she sees a lot of students who likely have learning disabilities but never got help — or at least proper help — and she said she thinks her own son might have been in the same position if he hadn't gone to Grace Christian.

Carver said that because the school gives its students a religious grounding as well as the opportunity for all students to play sports, they get a well-rounded perspective of what it takes to be successful and to overcome difficulties. Kruger added that generally, students with these types of disabilities excel in non-academic fields like art, sports or music. So with the knowledge that they can indeed push themselves above and beyond, she said, the trick is to start where they're comfortable and gradually give them challenges that get them up to speed.

"Some of our students will come in and say, 'I have ADHD,' and I say, 'Good, you know what you have. Let's work from there,'" Kruger said. "They want to use it as a crutch, but we turn it into a step."

According to a study of 8,488 students in the Creative Education Institute — with results that Kruger said were approximate to what she sees at Grace Christian — the average student in the program improves his or her reading comprehension by 1.82 grade levels in one year of instruction. About a third improves by one grade level, a third improves by two or more grade levels and a third improves by less than one grade level.

The school provided a statement that it's expecting increased enrollment next year because of a drop in the price of tuition, and that it's holding the fund-raiser in part to expand on the services it already offers in anticipation of that increase.