Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed September 29, 1998
Contact: Kristen Lans

Project Eye-to-Eye

Learning-disabled Brown students mentor elementary-age counterparts

On Monday, Oct. 5, 1998, six Brown University students with learning disabilities will begin mentoring six Vartan Gregorian Elementary School students who have similar learning disabilities.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- For students with learning disabilities spelling, reading, writing and even concentrating on an assignment is often difficult. A new program will pair Brown students who have learning disabilities with elementary-school counterparts to spread the message that "you are not alone, you can do this."

Project Eye-to-Eye will begin Oct. 5, with six students from the University and six from the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School at Fox Point. The older students will spend several hours a week in the classroom helping the younger students with schoolwork.

The program was designed by Brown juniors Jonathan Mooney, 21, who has dyslexia, and David Cole, 23, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both struggled with their learning disabilities growing up and, at different points in their lives, each stopped going to school. They made it to Brown on their academic merits, however, and want children with learning disabilities to know that they can succeed in this arena too. "There are still millions of kids in this country who are receiving the message that the way they do things is not going to lead them to places like Brown," said Cole.

The Brown students will provide positive role models for the children, said Maureen Kenner, special education teacher at the Gregorian School. "Learning is very difficult for some of these kids," Kenner said. The project "is extremely important so they don't feel isolated or lonely - so that they know hard work pays off."

Brown mentors will spend a weekend training for the program, Oct. 3 and 4. They will get instruction from professionals in the field, including educators at the Hamilton School, a division of Wheeler School in Providence, which serves students with learning disabilities in grades one through eight; and from educators at Landmark College in Putney, Vt., a college solely for students with learning disabilities.

David Cole, of Hanover, N.H., was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at age six. Throughout his early education, Cole was disciplined for not being able to concentrate and for acting up in class. He dropped out of public high school as a junior and later decided to enroll at the private Putney School in Vermont. Although his grades did not improve significantly, Cole developed a love of learning at the Putney School. He graduated high school with below-average grades and went to Landmark College in Putney, a college of 300 students with learning disabilities. There, Cole improved academically. With his new skills and desire for learning, he decided to transfer to Brown in September 1997. Cole is working on a concentration in art-semiotics and is scheduled to graduate in December 1999.

Jonathan Mooney did not learn to read until he was 12 years old. In elementary school his dyslexia made him feel like a failure, and one year he simply stopped going. As a sixth-grader in California, he refused to attend school for half a year. His family later moved to Colorado where he became a star soccer player in high school but remained a mediocre student. After graduating from Green Mountain High school in Lakewood, Colo., Mooney went to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on an athletic scholarship. But during the first soccer practice, Mooney broke his ankle and later developed tendonitis in his knee. Those and other injuries forced him to quit the team in his sophomore year. It was then that Mooney turned his attention to studying and began enjoying his course work. Mooney transferred to Brown in September 1997. He is concentrating in English and is scheduled to graduate in December 1999.

In addition to working together on Project Eye-to-Eye, Mooney and Cole are co-authoring a book on their experiences with learning disabilities.

Project Eye-to-Eye is facilitated by the Howard R. Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University. There are about 200 students at the University with learning disabilities. For information about classic symptoms or myths about learning disabilities visit the web at