Kevin Kent ’12 was recently named Alumni of the Year by Eye to Eye, a national mentoring program for young people with learning disabilities. Kent will receive the award during the organization’s Spring Fete on Wednesday, May 7, in Manhattan.
Eye to Eye, which has been an established program at the Colleges for several years, aims to improve the life of every person with a learning disability. The organization supports a growing network of youth mentoring programs run by and for those with learning differences, and organizes advocates to support the full inclusion of people with learning disabilities and ADHD in all aspects of society.
The HWS chapter of Eye to Eye fosters a working relationship between college students with learning disabilities and Geneva middle and high school students with learning disabilities. Kent, who is currently participating in Teach for America in Texas, was the chapter coordinator for Eye to Eye at HWS during his junior and senior years.
“Kevin has strong convictions about equity and social justice, which Eye to Eye allowed him to act upon, with a strong purpose in eradicating prejudice and empowering youth with LD/ADHD to find their voice,” says HWS Center for Teaching and Learning Director Susan Pliner, who is the faculty adviser for the Eye to Eye chapter at the Colleges. “And, he found his own voice, which he used regularly to advocate for people with disabilities.”
In his sophomore year at the Colleges, Kent received word that the HWS Eye to Eye Chapter was seeking new volunteers. Through his service, Kent worked with students on art projects that promoted communication and sharing of experiences among students with disabilities. These art projects were geared toward fostering conversations between mentors and students about experiences with learning disabilities. That following summer, Kent attended Eye to Eye’s summer training program in order to become the chapter coordinator at HWS.
“I noticed when I came to HWS that there was a big culture of community service, and at that point, I felt I had an opportunity to give back some time and effort,” Kent reflects.
During his senior year, Kent also attended training for Think Different Diplomats, the Eye to Eye Speakers Bureau. This initiative brings together the program’s current mentors, recent graduates, and its leading executives to change the conversation regarding learning disabilities at schools, universities, and conferences nationwide.
In conjunction with Eye to Eye and the variety of education classes offered at HWS, Kent was inspired to enter the field of education. An urban studies major, he became interested in studying structural inequities, as well as how to create a positive difference in classrooms.
“On a day to day basis, the things I learned in those classes keep me headed in the right direction and doing the right things in my classroom for the right reasons,” Kent says. “The kids here deserve the best and they, as well as their other teachers and community members, should receive the support and resources they need.”
Following his graduation, Kent chose to enter Teach for America, a subset of AmeriCorps that recruits college graduates to teach in high-needs classrooms in rural or urban low-income communities across the nation. The Colleges have a longstanding history with the program.
“Both Teach for America and Eye to Eye start really good conversations about their respective goals, bringing those goals out into the main public discourse,” Kent says. “That’s the first thing that needs to happen to make change.”
Eye to Eye Chief Operating Officer Marcus Soutra says the alumni award that Kent will receive was launched to celebrate individuals from the Eye to Eye community who have been committed to service and who continue to work with those who have learning disabilities into their lives as professionals.
He says more and more undergraduates who have volunteered with Eye to Eye have shown that their experiences with the organization have informed their current endeavors. Kent is exemplary of that transition, Soutra says.
In his time after HWS, Kent has served as an Eye to Eye community leader, mentoring students during training sessions. As a volunteer with Teach for America, Kent continues to share his personal story to inspire young people with LD/ADHD.
“I saw Kevin grow into a young leader during his time with Eye to Eye,” Soutra says. “It became a huge part of his education and personal development. Through his commitment to service, he was really an example of what Eye to Eye represents.”