Alumna shares story on conquering dyslexia, becoming an advocate

October 18, 2022

Ambition Unleashed: Gabriela Alvares wears her cap and gown and holds up her diploma in celebration

Gabriela Álvares '22, MS '23, used the skills and support she found at Quinnipiac to overcome a potentially debilitating diagnosis.

After Álvares’ mother noticed her daughter spelled the word “glasses” with four s’s and two e’s, she became concerned. Ultimately Álvares was presented with a life-changing diagnosis, dyslexia, which creates difficulties with word recognition.

“Originally, I thought I was dumb or stupid, but it took me about a year to understand that the reason I couldn’t spell was because of how my brain was wired,” Álvares said, who grew up in Portugal. and was raised in Tanzania.

Álvares ultimately built up enough courage to advocate for her own needs.

“Give me anything verbally that would normally be written, and I will excel,” Álvares told her teachers.

Not only did it transform her academic life, but it was the seed that sprouted Álvares’ love of advocating for people with learning differences.

Some told her that going to college would be far-fetched because of her learning disorder, she said. However, she ignored the comments and persevered.

After touring Quinnipiac, she knew Quinnipiac would be the place for her.

“From the moment I walked into the Learning Commons and met with an academic specialist, I knew that I would have the academic resources to support my success,” Álvares said. "From day one, I was able to reach out to my professors and advocate for my needs, which was my number one reason for choosing Quinnipiac."

Some of her accommodations included taking exams in a Learning Commons room for extra time and less distractions, utilizing digital textbooks with audio features and meeting with counselors and directors to help with her needs. 

Receiving a post-secondary level of education in a foreign country can be challenging for many, but to learn in a foreign country with a learning disorder can make it even harder. Nevertheless, Álvares not only rose to the occasion and survived, but she thrived.

With the help from her Quinnipiac mentors such as Dean of the School of Communications Chris Roush, Public Relations Professor Andrea Obston and the Learning Commons Academic Specialists Reece D’Angelo and Ali Theodore, Álvares was able to make the most of what Quinnipiac has to offer.

“I see you opening your own non-profit one day,” Roush told Álvares.

This piece of encouragement left an everlasting impact on Álvares. It led Roush to introduce her to Ability Media, a non-profit media organization at Quinnipiac showcasing various abilities. Once Álvares discovered this organization, she wanted to be a spokesperson for those with learning disabilities.

When it came time for her graduation, Álvares was awarded the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award in Media Studies. 

"I think the award tied everything together from my four years at Quinnipiac because the head of the media studies department, Nancy Worthington, mentioned my disability in her speech when announcing my award, so it came full circle," she said.

With a bachelor’s in media studies and pursuing her master’s in public relations, Álvares has a mission to help others.

“Being diagnosed with dyslexia changed my life, but it hasn’t defined me,” she said. “It’s provided an opportunity to share my story. What I’ve learned at Quinnipiac has given me the knowledge and confidence to advocate for myself and others with learning disabilities.” 

Video: Gabriela's story

Gabriela Unleashed

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