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Donnie’s story

Meet someone that you have helped….Donnie.

Imagine a child from an incredibly troubled and volatile home situation. He starts first grade eager to learn but misses 51 days—almost a third of the school year—not from his own unwillingness to attend, but due to parental problems with drugs. Second grade is no better. In the first three months, he misses 26 days of school. His home life in total disarray, he is removed from his parents and placed into foster care. The trauma and heartache he endures coupled with a diagnosis of ADHD only compounds his learning difficulties.

This was Donnie’s story when he came to live with his grandparents in Cambria County. The couple had been cut out of the little boy’s life by his parents and was unaware of the gravity of his situation. They intervened to provide Donnie with the stability of a loving home, but he continued to struggle, particularly at school.

“When it was recommended that Donnie repeat second grade, we thought surely he won’t have any problems the second time through. This should be easy. But it wasn’t. He started out bringing home Ds and Fs and Cs,” his grandmother explained.

The couple was convinced that Donnie could benefit from tutoring, but the out-of-pocket cost of for-profit providers was beyond the family’s means. “Unfortunately, raising an 8 year old was not something we had planned for our retirement,” said Donnie’s grandmother.

At The Learning Lamp, Donnie was eligible for reduced-cost tutoring funded through contributions to the United Way of the Laurel Highlands. He received weekly, one-hour sessions at a cost of only $6. “It helped immensely. We would not have been able to do this on our own,” the couple said.

Donnie worked one-to-one with a Pennsylvania-certified teacher from The Learning Lamp from September through May. The sessions, which focused largely on math but eventually overlapped into other subjects, helped him to stay focused and prove to himself that he could do it. “It gave him encouragement. He was so proud when he would come home with a good grade. He’d say, ‘Look Grandma!’” his grandmother recounted.

Donnie ended the school year with all Bs, one C, and a high B in math. His grandparents were thrilled and sincerely thankful for the United Way support that made it all possible.

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