Joe Egan’s Story

Joe Egan is the first to admit that as a young boy, he had a way of pushing boundaries. He came to Marburn in the first grade, a bright student but extremely dyslexic and with a knack for causing mischief. I didn’t get to know Joe well until he entered my middle school classroom a few years later, but it’s safe to say his reputation preceded him. It was not unusual to look out a window and find him weeding the grounds, a result of the number of hijinks he was known to pull. It was the mid-1980s and Joe wasn’t given an easy hand in life—being raised by a single mother, struggling in school and overlooked by the teachers in his home district. Joe’s mom didn’t have the means to send him, but it was clear Marburn was where he needed to be. Through the generosity of scholarship donors, Joe was able to enroll at Marburn for nine years. And in his own words, those years saved his life.

Like most of our students, Joe entered Marburn a little bruised, his confidence depleted and wary of teachers. Joe always had the best of intentions, but he needed some guidance to keep on the straight and narrow. So, we focused on building trust. I got to know Joe better through Marburn’s Voyageurs program – a set of outdoor adventure experiences designed to build our students’ confidence and leadership skills. We hiked, camped and went on white water rafting trips. For Joe (and for many of the students that we serve) learning is a tough, often frustrating process. Students with learning differences don’t always see gains in real time; they can even feel as if they are losing ground. In those situations, it’s easy for students to give up. American educator Thomas H. Palmer said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” What better way to learn this lesson than by experiencing it? Through Voyageurs, something inside of Joe changed. He literally began to climb mountains so that he could see the other side. You could say the same about how he approached life from that point forward.

As time passed, Joe’s confidence grew and he began to learn. He was reading. He was advocating for himself and using the tools he needed in order to be successful in and out of the classroom. He trusted his teachers and knew they were his allies. By the end of his middle school years, he was ready to transition back to his home district. He returned and thrived. After graduation, Joe moved to California, earned a degree in Communications and Broadcasting, and has built a successful career working for the likes of NBC Universal, The Disney Network and others. He’s now married and has a child of his own. When I turn on my morning news, I often smile and think of Joe.

At times in our lives, we get caught up in routines. We go through the motions but forget to ask ourselves why. My why as an educator was answered 30-some odd years ago in the form of a spunky young kid named Joe Egan. I think about all of the what-ifs and the successes that he’s had and the relief that his mother experienced, all because of his Marburn education. Without a doubt, Marburn changed the course of Joe’s life. I’m grateful for Joe’s teachers and for the scholarship donors that provided the funds that gave him access. Without them, I’m certain Joe’s story would read quite differently. And, I often reflect on the students throughout the years-those no different than Joe- that we’ve had to turn away because we simply didn’t have enough financial aid available. It’s a reality we work tirelessly to change.

I’ve been part of the Marburn community for nearly 35 years. Marburn has grown from a small, 12-student school on Beckett Avenue, to a bustling 300-student campus in New Albany. Through it all, Marburn’s why has remained constant. Students are at the center of all we do. Always have been. We strive to serve children with learning differences well, with the fervent hope that we might make a positive impact in their lives, and the lives of their families. It’s not so much how or what we do, but WHY that continuously drives us forward.

At Marburn we envision a world where every child may learn. Over 50,000 students in Central Ohio alone are struggling with a learning difference like dyslexia, ADHD or executive function challenges. We know that most of our families come to Marburn not expecting a private school education or the tuition that follows. The specialized teaching strategies and small classes needed do not come without cost, and we rely on community support to open the door for students that need it most. For Joe, without scholarship aid, Marburn would have been out of reach. The need for Marburn’s program is great and ever increasing. Please consider joining me in making a gift to Marburn’s Annual Fund today. With your investment, even more children will benefit. When you consider why you might give, I hope you’ll think of students like Joe.

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