Dateline: September 28, 2018
Nelson Lauver, award-winning author of Most UnLikely to Succeed, will be making his way to Athens State University on October 25 thanks to Professor Laura Lynn Kerner, her marketing class, and 2009 Athens State graduate, Mariyana Castleberry. Dyslexia is a cause close to Castleberry’s heart, and the team worked together to organize a fundraiser to bring the dyslexic author to campus while raising awareness for the disorder in the process.
Dyslexia is a disorder that makes it difficult for individuals to learn how to read and/or interpret words, letters, and symbols. Approximately 40 million American adults are dyslexic, but only 2 million know it.
What if you did not know that you were dyslexic until you reached adulthood? What if your child was suffering from dyslexia unbeknownst to either of you? That is how it was for Nelson Lauver, who did not discover that he had been struggling with dyslexia until he was almost 30 years old. He remained functionally illiterate into adulthood, and out of the 104 students in his high school graduating class, he ranked dead last.
In the summer of 1992, Lauver had an encounter that shaped the rest of his life in a way that he could have never imagined. He confided in a complete stranger about his disabilities, something he had always kept secret. The man mentioned the word “dyslexia” and spoke to Lauver for an hour, giving him advice and encouragement. Lauver began a journey of self-improvement to develop his reading and writing abilities. After much time, guidance, and hard work, Lauver finally achieved the literary skills he had previously struggled with and published his first memoir, Most UnLikely to Succeed, in 2011. It was later named “Outstanding Book of the Year” by the Independent Publishers Association.
Today, Nelson Lauver continues to inspire millions of people all over the globe as a public speaker, motivator, and story teller. For Mariyana Castleberry and her 10-year-old dyslexic son, Aiden, he would provide the aid she had been desperately searching for. “The struggles he has had to go through so far to be able to learn have been unsurmountable,” she said. In hopes to find ways to understand and help him, Castleberry read Lauver’s memoir. “It gave me the ability to be able to see through the eyes of a dyslexic person and to understand the struggles from their point of view,” she stated.
Upon discovering that Lauver travels all over the country for public speaking engagements, the idea of having him come to North Alabama was born. Castleberry began creating a plan to bring Lauver to the area, but knew she could not do it alone. She decided that this massive task would be a wonderful real-life project for Professor Kerner’s marketing class.
While completing her Management degree, Castleberry took marketing classes taught by Kerner. Not only did those courses help prepare her for her career, but the mentorship she experienced from Kerner inspired Castleberry and left a lasting impact on her. “I contacted her (Kerner) to see if she had the need for a project, and before I knew it, I found myself presenting it to her class,” she said. The students fully embraced the idea and began planning. Castleberry gave the class the reigns on how to construct the fundraiser, but only asked that they incorporate raising awareness for dyslexia into their plan. Thus, they decided to organize a “Color Fun Run” for dyslexia awareness.
With roughly one month to complete the project, the team built their own GoFundMe and Facebook pages, printed flyers, and even had company sponsors produce T-shirts and banners for the cause. Kerner’s class rapidly spread the word about the event. In the end, approximately 50 people registered to run. Friends, family, educators, and those with dyslexia came to support the cause. “We had volunteers who also came to help. We managed to raise over $2,200 with this effort which was more than anyone had anticipated,” Castleberry said.
The Color Fun Run was a rewarding experience to those who worked so long and hard to bring it to life. “The most remarkable fact to me during this whole experience remains to be that the class the students did this project for had ended weeks before this event ever took pace. They had their new classes, their jobs, their families, and their lives, and yet they stayed committed to this project because they wanted to see it through. …This is how a simple, silly idea managed to bring a bunch of strangers together, united by the same cause, for different reasons and make it a success. I am honored to have been a part of this experience with these remarkable young people,” Castleberry reflected.
On Thursday, October 25 at 6:00 pm, Nelson Lauver will be sharing his knowledge and experiences with dyslexia in an effort to reach out to those affected by the disability and educate those who may be unfamiliar of its signs and symptoms. Following the seminar, Lauver will stay for an extended period of time to hold a book signing. The event will held in the Athens State Ballroom and will be free and open to the public.