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Like countless students, Karina Murcia, class of 2020, remembers tearful nights at home trying to get through her high school homework. Though she took longer than most to complete assignments, her parents were both educators and very supportive. They were strong advocates for their daughter, and ultimately Karina received the accommodations she needed to complete a successful high school career and embark on a future that included college.
It wasn’t until her first year at Temple University in Philadelphia that the Clover City, California native had a stark realization: “If this is what college is like, I’m going to have big trouble. I’m not going to be able to do this.”
It was the first test of her first semester. Karina realized she wasn’t going to be able to finish the test in the time allotted, but when she asked the professor if she could have extra time, her request was denied. “The teacher simply said, ‘No,’ ” Karina recalls. “When your time is up, you’re done.”
For someone diagnosed with dyslexia, who regularly experiences test-taking anxiety, the episode was devastating. Karina soldiered on through her Sophomore year, but knew she needed a change if she was going to get the education she deserved.
“PAL was a very big reason why I chose Curry,“ Karina says. “I realized I needed a smaller school with smaller class sizes where I could get more personalized attention. I had services similar to PAL at Temple, but they weren’t as strong or as developed as here at Curry.”
Along with the smaller class sizes, Karina - a Sociology major - also takes advantage of being able to meet with her PAL professor on a weekly basis to check in, get organized, and receive help where she needs it. She also has a close relationship with her PAL mentor, another PAL student she often meets with for support.
And like other PAL students, Karina’s academic pursuits are buttressed with the latest technology to help accommodate her learning differences. Each PAL student receives an iPad at the beginning of their time at Curry loaded with personalized apps that support their learning style.
Katrina says she often will listen to a book being read on her iPad while simultaneously reading the hard copy and taking notes. “I need to see it, hear it, and do it,” she says of her studying strategy.
But perhaps the most meaningful aspect of Karina’s experience at Curry is simply having the freedom to pursue life as any other smart and capable student would. “When I tell friends I’m taking a test at PAL or going to see my PAL professor, I don’t feel weird,” Karina says. “PAL is such a big part of the campus. No one looks at you like you have three heads.”
Among many of the stand-out moments during her time at Curry, Karina includes meeting her best friend and being a member of the cross country running team. “I’m just a regular student at the end of the day,” she says. “Yes, I require different services, but that doesn’t mean I’m any different.”
“Curry has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. I have confidence and I feel like I am supported. I feel like the hard work and good grades that PAL has helped me to achieve is my way of saying ‘thank you’ to my parents and others who have helped me. For me, PAL is a game-changer that is unquestionably setting me up for the rest of my life.”