Julia SheridanClass of 2012
Julia Sheridan brought a unique set of talents to the Community Lower School when she entered in fifth grade; while she was struggling as a student, she was starring in athletics. New Jersey state law permits students attending specialized schools to continue to participate in local district extracurricular activities. It required both personal determination and the coordination and cooperation of Community and Hasbrouck Heights for her to reach her potential. As she remembers:
When I entered the Community Lower School, I couldn’t read at all. That affected everything I did in school. I scored very poorly on standardized tests and chances I would go to college, much less do well there, were pretty slim. It was very frustrating, very embarrassing. I also was an athlete and it was very hard maintaining the status quo on the field and then getting into the classroom and feeling like I was less than all my peers. I was diagnosed with Phonological Dyslexia. I could compete, even excel, in sports, but when I sat in a classroom, there were times I felt completely lost.
From my first year at Community, my teachers understood that athletics played an important role in my life. A lot of the teaching techniques were based around sports. When I was studying math, for example, my teacher, Madeleine Koransky, made the problems about soccer, about basketball. The teachers found a path for me to begin feeling good about myself and to develop my capabilities.
In addition to the instruction I got during the school day, my district recommended a tutor who I saw after school. It was hard work, but my teachers were with me every step, every page. They believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Gradually I began gaining confidence that I could do it. Raising my hand in class to read out loud was something I was no longer shy about doing. And if I made a mistake they were there in a reassuring way to correct me, rather than the embarrassing way that I had experienced in public school. I completed my first chapter book when I was in seventh grade, The Face on the Milk Carton. In our class every time we finished a book, we would post a dolphin or a wave on the board. Everybody in my class was putting up two or three of them, while it took me four months to finish my first book. But putting that first dolphin on the board was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. It is a feeling I will never forget.
Learning to read made all the difference to me academically. But at the same time I was able to participate in high school sports. My teachers at Community were always available to me early in the morning or at lunchtime to make up any work I missed. I had gym scheduled last period so I could leave a little early when necessary. My coaches at Hasbrouck Heights accepted the fact that I was going to be a few minutes late for practice, although on game days, I would get there early. It was a balancing act, but it worked out well. At Hasbrouck Heights I was All-State two years in soccer, and in my freshman year we won the state championship. I was also All-League in soccer, basketball and softball. When I graduated, I was offered both academic and athletic scholarships and received a full scholarship from Felician University. I went there intending to study nursing.
My freshman year there I was struggling a bit with college Algebra, so I would go back to Community and Mrs. Koransky worked with me, and I did very well. She was always willing to go that extra mile with me. During my sophomore year, I realized that I enjoyed math more than any other subject and changed my major to Accounting. I remember when I informed Mrs. Koransky she smiled and said, “I told you, you were going into math!”
As the goalie at Felician, I set the school record for goals-against average and we went to the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference semi-finals twice. In the classroom, I compiled a 3.90 grade average and became a member of Sigma Beta Delta Honor Society and Chi Alpha Sigma, the national college athletic honor society. In 2016, I received the New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Woman of the Year award. I was honored to be given the title of class valedictorian. None of that would have been possible without the real cooperation of the Hasbrouck Heights district.
After graduation I was hired by BNY Mellon, and was chosen to participate in its emerging leaders program. There were over 10,000 applicants, and they selected 24 of us. It’s a yearlong program that leads to a managerial role. I am also pursuing my Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Non-profit Management.
But the reality is that none of it would have been possible without my experience at Community. As I told my college classmates, “At one point I was ashamed of my learning disability. There is nothing worse while you are growing up than being teased, laughed at, and feeling less than human. Today, I am proud to say that I am a student with a learning disability. I realized I needed to stop looking for societal approval, and ultimately change the perception of being different. I could not be more grateful for where I've come from.”