Imagine yourself as the child that always smiled
You were wild, you were beguiled —
Until the day you were profiled.
This is the story of the forgotten child.
Jake Sussman delivers those words clearly, directly and powerfully. Like many guys in their early 20s, he’s got scruff and exudes confidence.
But he is “The Forgotten Child.”
Now, he’s making sure that educators around the world do not forget any other Jake Sussmans out there.
There are many.
Growing up in Westport — and diagnosed with a learning difference — Jake had a “great experience” at Coleytown Elementary School.
Middle school was different, though.
“It wasn’t working for me,” Jake says. He transferred to The Southport School, then the Forman School in Litchfield for high school. After graduating in 2014, he headed to Roger Williams University.
It was the only college he applied to with no academic support system.
“That was fine,” Jake says. “In life, there’s no special corner for employees with learning differences.”
He directed his energy and charisma toward creating a Hillel on the Rhode Island campus. By the time he left for his senior year at the University of Hartford — for its program in communications and business — there were 30 attendees at Shabbat dinners.
As a junior, he took part in a campus poetry slam. “The Forgotten Child” was all about overcoming adversity, and being true to oneself.
Negative labels are destructive
Counter-productive and obstructive
This forgotten child refused to acknowledge
“You will never go to college.”
Speaking those words out loud, Jake felt empowered. He told his story — but he was not alone.
“Everyone learns differently,” he notes. “I may be 3 grades behind in reading, but I’m the best artist in the class. Teachers have to be able to tap into that.”
He realized his poem spoke for “anyone not seen or heard.” Learning differences, sexualities, physical disabilities — whatever adversity students have to overcome, Jake included them. They too are “forgotten children.”
At boarding school, Jake had met Harvey Hubbell V. The Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker — who himself was diagnosed with dyslexia in the 1960s, and in 2013 produced “Dislecksia: The Movie” — was intrigued by Jake’s passion. And his poetry.
Beginning last May, they collaborated on a video. Last Thursday — in the middle of Dyslexia Awareness Month — they launched “The Forgotten Child” on Facebook. In it, Jake implores:
Don’t ever give up your shot
Our minds are all we’ve got!
Within 2 days, it had 25,000 views worldwide. And dozens of very favorable comments.
He hopes it reaches the right audiences: people with learning differences, and those who work with them.
“I’m not a teacher, a psychologist, a researcher or a parent,” he says. “I am a student. I represent all those who are not seen or heard, just for the way they learn.”
“The Forgotten Child” is just one of the ways Jake is speaking out about his own educational life, and those of so many others.
On Monday night, he was at a Decoding Dyslexia meeting in Salt Lake City.
I’m not sure whether he presented a talk or a poem.
Either way, I have no fear.
His message was heard loud and clear.
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