RiSE is proud to announce the 2017 RiSE Award Winners!

Like every year, it is hard to make a choice as every applicant has overcome many obstacles and we are amazed by their success. Thank you for applying and sharing your story with us and the strategies that helped you succeed and congratulations on your  graduation!

Below are the 5 chosen winners for this year, These 5 students will receive $2500.00 paid to the college they attend in the fall of 2017. Please see the other pages ( 2017 scholarship winners) for the 2017 Honorable Mentions and the 2017 RiSE Awards Autism Awards as well!

Congrats and Happy Graduation!

Greyson Collins

St. John, Kansas

This “Big Picture” thinker and high school senior is planning on majoring in Animal Science and Ag –Business when heading to college. Currently, Greyson is a delegate for the  National 4-H Conference and a team member of the Monsanto Ag Innovators leadership team. He has traveled in the US on behalf of both organizations as well as taken a couple of classes at the community college to “get ahead”, where he made an A in public speaking. This sounds like someone that has never had a struggle, but like many that have overcome a learning difference, he did not have such an easy start to school.

In his words, “I was in 3rd grade, struggling to keep up with the students in my class, when I really began to notice that I was different than all of the other kids. It wasn’t made any easier by my teacher, who also treated me different than all the other kids. I remember him being such a bully. My teacher, of all people, couldn’t understand why I wasn’t “getting it”. It made me feel even worse than I already did. By this time, I had been in eye therapy, with little to no success and my parents were desperate to figure out why I wasn’t able to read. They could see the toll it was taking on me, I was getting physically ill before school and became more anxious with each passing day. I remember getting tested one day by a psychologist, after leaving his office, I was once again sick to my stomach. The testing was so stressful and confusing, it made my head spin and I literally got sick. That was the day I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, dysgraphia, mild dyscalculia and Attention Deficit Disorder.”

With tutoring and discovering ways he learns best (which are auditory and hands on), he has discovered ways where he thrives. Public speaking and being a team member where he can brainstorm have given him additional confidence and much success. As he knows he will always have these diagnosis, but they no longer hold him back, as he puts it, “My dyslexia and learning differences will always be with me, but they do not define me. I am in control of my destiny and I am able to create my own path”


Heather Cucucel 

Williamsburg, Va.

High school senior Heather Cucuel, received her diagnosis of ADHD, dyslexia and eye tracking issues in 6th grade after feeling different than her peers by having to go to a “special class” while the others were taking Spanish and P.E. This is often the case from kids with an LD.

Learning of her diagnosis before high school made her feel much more confident and lef her to understand what the issues were and how to remediate them. Her family decided to switch schools to one that had more accommodations and began taking advantage of their suggestions of using extended time during testing, printing in larger fonts and even using colored pencils in her notetaking. She also used the extended time in her standardized testing, which she feels strongly about.

The hard work and self-awareness has paid off, she exceled in her GPA, took AP courses and joined the yearbook to further her writing talent. Heather’s future has been affected by this experience and she plans to help others by double majoring in early education and elementary education with a minor in learning differences.

Congrats Heather, RiSE cannot wait to see your impact and send us any info to help other’s along your way!


Sarah Flores

Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.


According to Sarah, her diagnosis of dyscalculia has brought many unexpected gifts such as making her more empathetic, a better friend and given her determination to succeed.

This was not what she thought would happen when she entered high school. She was struggling and after being tested for her LD, she was told she had 4th grade math skills and would never be able to drive due to not being able to retain directional information.

As a junior, Sarah decided to tackle her growing anxiety about her disability and take Algebra and Chemistry. She found a qualified tutor, spoke openly with her teachers about her needs and put her embarrassment to the side about needing help. With the added help and much hard work, she succeeded in both classes.

“Advocating for myself was empowering in ways I could not imagine; the more I asked for help, the more confident I felt.” After these gains, Sarah decided to become certified in scuba diving which involved a lot of calculation and has found a deep passion for this and marine biology.

Way to go Sarah, and as she says, “I made a lot of jumps this year, into the ocean and into my future”.


Cameron Galley

San Francisco, Ca.

As soon as you see Cameron’s artwork, you realize he has a passion for art! His plans are to attend a prestigious and rigorous art school in the fall to pursue graphic design. After speaking to his mother, Naomi, we hear it is Rhode Island School of Design!

This goal and progression came after realizing his ease of learning visually and how he enjoys creating, whether it be in design, photography or even writing.

In 4th grade Cameron’s school and family realized he was struggling academically and while being tested for a possible LD, he recalls being relieved at the portion of the test that required him to work with blocks and design. This is where he knew he thrived. Although, he was aware of his natural talent rather early, his diagnosis of dyslexia made school somewhat a challenge.

He began to struggle and question his goals until he finally realized he must lean on his teachers and take the help that they were offering. “As hard as teacher meetings felt, the one-on-one time helped me process assignments I was stuck on and helped me build self-advocacy skills”, Cameron says.

Cameron noticed that the combination of academic success and discovering his passion for design boosted his confidence and made school much easier. According to The Urban School’s Learning Services Director, Laurie Williams, Cameron is self-aware, hard working, forth coming and resilient. He knows his learning style and knows what can help him succeed. Some of his strategies are listening to music (instrumental) while reading , doing the most challenging homework first and planning his week ahead of time. She says he brings joy and a creative perspective to the school and from his work and smile, we can certainly see it!

Congrats Cameron!


Margaret Powell

Franklin, Tn.

Margaret stood out to all the RiSE judges this year with regards to perseverance. According to her essay, “Perseverance is a strength I developed early in my life.”

Margaret was born with hydrocephalus which also caused hemi hypertrophy and lead to one side of her body being shorter than the other, causing a painful limp and lower back pain. Learning to live with the physical pain did not slow Margaret down and in high school she joined the jump rope team, played volleyball and now is a cheerleader.

Upon learning that she has a math LD (dyscalculia), Margaret used strategies such as extended time and finding a quiet space for her testing and work. This allowed her to pull her grades up in math and excel even more. These setbacks have led Margaret to gain “self-respect” and continue her path to graduate. According to her English teacher Robert Kent, Margaret’s “tenacity and perseverance” shine through and she is a strong leader and positive example at her school.

We look forward to seeing the future for Margaret as we know she is just beginning to RiSE!!