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Marcus Soutra ’06, New President of Eye to Eye

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Marcus Soutra ’06, president of Eye to Eye
Marcus Soutra ’06, president of Eye to Eye

When Marcus Soutra ’06 first came to Keene State, he brought a terrible secret with him. Diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) in third grade, he had a tough time in school because he just couldn’t learn normally or meet the classroom expectations. “I just didn’t feel good about who I was, because, at a very young age, I’d been told I was disabled,” he remembered. “I felt as though I was normal, and intelligent, but once I got into the classroom, I felt disabled.”

He was ashamed of his disability and didn’t want anyone to know about it. But then he met people such as Jane Warner, Keene State’s director of Disability Services, who helped him get the right accommodations for his needs and convinced him that he was bright and could learn—he just learned differently from other students. “My grades started to rise and my self esteem did too,” he recalled.

Soutra also met Steve Bigaj, the assistant dean of Professional Studies, who told him about Eye to Eye, an organization that uses college students with learning disabilities to mentor younger kids with learning disabilities. It’s a big win-win for both the students and their mentors, as both build confidence and realize that they can learn and function very well in the classroom, and on the job.

Soutra began to volunteer with Eye to Eye in 2006 and became so effective in the organization that he recently became its president.

“I started working with David Flink, founder and chief empowerment officer of Eye to Eye in his Brooklyn apartment in 2007,” Soutra said. “Since then, Eye to Eye has grown to a level where we have enough infrastructure, enough of a team, so he and I can be more outward facing. We’re opening an office in San Francisco this summer, so David will be moving out there and I’ll manage the New York office. I’ll be doing more executive leadership, strategic planning, and steering our growth. We’re building our staff up a bit more, so that will give me an opportunity to do more of the outward advocacy, representing what’s possible for students who learn differently—students with learning disabilities.”

And he’ll continue to let them know that a learning disability is no impediment to success.

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