Gabriela McCall Delgado walked before she crawled which sometimes foreshadows a learning disability.
In Delgado’s case, it also suggests she’s a person who gets right to the point.
Delgado, who’ll graduate from LSU in August with a degree in philosophy, is the creator of We Connect Now, a website for college-bound students with learning disabilities (http://www.weconnectnow.wordpress.com).
We Connect Now has gotten 50,000 page views since Delgado launched the site more than two years ago.
The 22-year-old native of Puerto Rico is the daughter of Michael McCall and Damaris Delgado Vega, who live in a suburb of San Juan.
“My dad went to LSU, and my great aunt lives here,” Delgado said.
Delgado was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder at age 9. She has a learning disability that made learning to read difficult.
The website came out of Delgado’s trying to research colleges that offered help to students with disabilities.
She found LSU. Its Office of Disability Services provides help to students with physical and intellectual challenges including note taking, audio books and labs where students may take exams.
Michael Robinson, Delgado’s instructor in a history course this summer, said an example of the kind of services ODS gives students is help with note taking in class.
“We read an anonymous letter to the class asking if they’d mind sharing their notes,” Robinson said. “They don’t know who the student is.”
Students who agree to share their notes get such perks as registering for classes early, Robinson said.
Robinson had 57 students in his history class. “We had three requests for note takers,” he said.
At mid-term, because she was an ODS student, Delgado got an extra hour on her exam.
“When the class was done with the hourlong exam, we walked over to my office and I gave Gabriela another hour. We follow the guidelines of ODS.”
A youth leadership development conference in 2008 led Delgado to come up with a blueprint for her English and Spanish website. Young People For (YP4), sponsors of the conference, gave Delgado a $1,000 grant.
Delgado gave her predilection for distraction free rein.
“I started creating the website and began adding pages,” she said.
Delgado is on no medication for her ADD.
“Being distracted works to my advantage sometimes,” she said. “I come up with ideas by noticing things other people don’t.”
Delgado’s website has received money from her parents’ Rotary Club and from other Rotary Clubs. The money helps fund chapters of We Connect on college campuses including Hofstra University and Illinois State. One at LSU is in the planning stages, she said.
Delgado’s never met the organizers of the Hofstra and Illinois State chapters.
“I sent out emails saying I wanted to move We Connect Now from a virtual community to a physical community,” she said. “Power of the Internet.”
News of interest to students with physical and learning disabilities and job postings are two popular features of the website.
“People have told us the website helped them get an internship,” Delgado said.
Delgado, who plans to get a graduate degree in nonprofit management, is looking for volunteers to update content on We Connect Now’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website doesn’t sell advertising and encourages a free exchange of ideas. “From a free speech perspective, I don’t want to control the content,” she said.
Delgado spends 20 to 25 hours a week on the website. “There are days that take more time than others,” she said. “Days when I have tests I may not work on it at all.”
The site’s 50,000 page visits show it fills a need, Delgado said.
“We’re the second page on Google when you Google ‘college students with disabilities,’” she said. “We get a lot of return visits.”
ON THE INTERNET:
We Connect Now: http://www.weconnectnow.wordpress.com
LSU’s Office of Disability Services: http://www.lsu.edu/disability