His first step was learning how to learn
There was a time when a young Winston Churchill, the future prime minister of England and world-renowned orator, stuttered and lisped through sentences. Albert Einstein, the man who would revolutionize the field of physics, could hardly speak at the age of 4.
As a child, Thomas Edison was considered hyperactive and a slow learner, but he went on as an adult to patent the first record player, the motion picture camera and the light bulb.
Pete Schwarze, a 2010 graduate of Tulpehocken High School, returned to the school Friday to tell students that they too can change the world despite their learning disabilities.
“I can remember my transition meeting with his sixth-grade teachers,” said Christa Miller, a reading teacher at the high school. “They said I was really going to have to help him and that he was going to have a hard time.”
Diagnosed with an emotional distress disorder that interfered with his learning capabilities, Schwarze was placed in an individualized educational plan that helped him learn how to confront, and eventually overcome, his disability.
“Now he is an absolute success story and I am amazed at the man he has become,” Miller said.
Schwarze, in interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in business and pre-law at Lock Haven University, was invited to speak to Miller’s remedial reading class about how he has learned to live with his disability.
“People ask me how I deal with my learning disorder and I have to tell them that I don’t ‘deal’ with it,” Schwarze said. “I had to adapt to it. I want to tell the kids to not let a disability stop you from succeeding.”
Miller said students can connect with Schwartze.
“He was one of our most hard-luck cases,” Miller said. “He had a lot of difficulties to overcome and now he is an example of how they can achieve their goals.”
Though Schwarze said his learning disability is still a part of his life, he has learned how to cater to his own needs and encourages students to know they can do the same.
“Half of being smart is knowing your weaknesses,” he said. “You can’t move forward unless you know what is holding you back.”