Special education major seeks to help students with undetected learning disabilities

Special education major seeks to help students with undetected learning disabilities

I leana Dejesus has a heart for helping others. An experience early in life that lead her to follow her passion in education by pursing a major in special education.

In elementary school, Dejesus had a best friend who was impacted by a learning disability. The two did everything together, and were often compared to each other, but her friend sometimes struggled in school.

“People would always say that ‘school wasn’t for her’ and things like that,” said Dejesus. “In the tenth grade, she got tested, and it turns out that she has an undetected learning disability. That’s why she did not thrive in school, and that really made me sad that her whole academic career she had been told that ‘school wasn’t for her’ when she really could’ve thrived if she had the resources.”

It was her friend’s experience that lead her to her major.

“I had always wanted to be a teacher, but after that I decided on special education so that I could help students that might have undetected learning disabilities in the classroom,” she said. 

Dejesus participating in GC Gives, August 2018
Dejesus participating in GC Gives, August 2018

A rising junior, Dejesus is from Stockbridge, Georgia, where she attended a small, racially diverse Christian school. She was a high school football cheerleader and lead a small group of middle school girls at her church. Settling in at college was a struggle in the beginning, but Dejesus credits her time at Georgia College so far as having had an important and positive impact on her personal growth.

“Being at Georgia College my freshman year encouraged me to think about who exactly I was, what I thought and what I stood for and then forced me to find friends and staff that stood for and believed the same things.”

As someone who is passionate about helping others, it is no surprise that Dejesus has discovered an interest in human rights, focusing on current social issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, and access to healthcare.

I took my GC2Y named ‘Rebel Girls’ with Audrey Redmond. She really taught me to demand equality and justice. She also made me feel very empowered and ready to be an activist.

During her sophomore year, Dejesus met several professors who have mentored her along the way.

“I took my GC2Y named ‘Rebel Girls’ with Audrey Redmond. She really taught me to demand equality and justice. She also made me feel very empowered and ready to be an activist. Audrey really exposed me to a lot of issues around the world and how to handle those.”

Dejesus was also impacted Dr. Jim Winchester through his Survey of Philosophy course. “Dr. Winchester was honestly a delight to be in a class with. He was educated and devoted to hearing his students. The books he assigned helped expose his students to different authors and narratives that we might not have been exposed to before. He really helped me take a deeper look at what I believe and why. I really appreciate him, as well.”

While away from Georgia College over the summer, Dejesus says she has missed two things the most.

“My community of friends and the library. My friends are educated, loud, bold and strong, and I miss being around them. Also, I really love the library. The environment is inviting and it’s where I got most of my work done before COVID-19, so I really miss that, too. At the library, me and my friends could take a quick nap, study or laugh as loud as we wanted. I really loved that.”

After graduation, Dejesus hopes to work at a school in a low-income community.

“There tends to be a lot of undetected learning disabilities in this area, and I hope to work in a classroom to help some those students who do not have the resources to get tested or extra help,” she said. “I could also see myself working at a non-profit a little later in life.”

When asked what advice she would give to incoming freshmen, Dejesus emphasizes finding your people, your place and your passion.

“Find a good group of friends and staff members who support and encourage you. Find a place on campus where you can totally be and express yourself. Finally, find something here that fuels your passion and makes you excited for your future.