The following is a conversation with David Flink, Chief Empowerment Officer, and Marcus Soutra, President of Eye to Eye, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer WNYM in New York City.
Denver: There are 2.4 million public school students who have been identified with learning disabilities. As a result, just 68% of these students earn high school diplomas versus 91% of their peers. An organization led by two individuals who encountered some of these challenges themselves is making a big difference in the lives of these young people. It’s called Eye to Eye. It’s a pleasure to have David Flink, their chief empowerment officer and Marcus Soutra, who serves as president with us tonight. Good evening gentlemen, and welcome to The Business of Giving.
David: Good evening.
Marcus: Good evening. Thank you for having us.
…even though I had all of this community of adults, I didn’t have any real role models, any near-peer relationships of people who learn and felt like I did. So, when I got to Brown I said, “I’m going to figure this out.”
… So, I went to a local elementary school and middle school. I said, “Okay, show me your dyslexic, ADHD kids.” Again, this was the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. They didn’t ask for any background checks or who that guy was. They said, “Here they are.” And we started hanging out with little kids, and we built a community.
Denver: As I mentioned, both of you experienced learning disabilities growing up. Let me start with you, David, and ask you to tell us about the challenges of learning differently and how you went on to successfully navigate this path, which included graduating from Brown University.
David: I grew up in 1980, and there was a lot that wasn’t known. For the first good chunk of my childhood, I knew there was something different. I could feel it. Kids were learning to read, and I wasn’t. Kids were sitting still and focusing, and it was quite obvious that I wasn’t. The gift that happened in fifth grade was that someone sat down and said, “Something’s not right, and it’s not that David’s stupid.” My life actually changed because I actually got diagnosed.
I now like the word “identified” because it’s part of my identity. But I got these labels, this understanding that I was dyslexic and had ADHD. I went through the rest of my schooling, and I had hit the parent lottery and the teacher lottery. I got teachers who understood me and gave me what I needed… Parents who gave me a lot of love, and I did go to Brown. As I went to Brown, the one thing that was really clear to me is even though I had all of this community of adults, I didn’t have any real role models, any near-peer relationships of people who learn and felt like I did. So, when I got to Brown, I said, “I’m going to figure this out.” Step one, I need to find some other people on campus who have dyslexia and ADHD and other types of learning disabilities because I need community. Step two, I have a responsibility to give back. So, I went to a local elementary school and middle school. I said, “Okay, show me your dyslexic, ADHD kids.” Again, this was the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. They didn’t ask for any background checks or who that guy was. They said, “Here they are.” And we started hanging out with little kids, and we built a community.
… that circuitous route, that different thinking brain also has unleashed a lot of creative thinking, a lot of problem skills that other people don’t have. Dyslexia is an interesting paradox of a struggle with one thing, and also there’s a lot of research now to say, a gift with another.
Denver: David, what exactly is dyslexia, and what causes it?
David: Dyslexia is based in your brain. It’s a disability where the way in which your brain decodes letters is different than other people who don’t have dyslexia. Literally, when I look at a letter, and I try and decode what that sound is, it takes a circuitous route in my brain to be able to get to that answer. So, that’s the reason why people who have dyslexia often struggle with decoding words or spelling words because they’re having trouble making that connection. One of the things I would actually add is, an interesting part about what is dyslexia; that circuitous route, that different thinking brain also has unleashed a lot of creative thinking, a lot of problem solving skills that other people don’t have. Dyslexia is an interesting paradox of a struggle with one thing, and also there’s a lot of research now to say, a gift with another.
Denver: It’s a mixed bag.
David: In school, it’s definitely often perceived of as a challenge.
I’ll be the teacher who understands these kids on a different level, can differentiate the instruction, be more empathetic to their struggles, whatever it is, but I’m not going to tell anybody I have a learning disability. That’s for sure, because that was something I was not comfortable with. But I did know that it was going to inform the way I talked in the classroom. Sure enough, a couple of weeks into my student teaching before I even got my first job teaching, I started misspelling everything on the board, and my kids called me out on it as the way 16-year-olds can.
Denver: Marcus, tell us your story.
Marcus: My story is a little similar to Dave. I was identified with dyslexia and ADHD. They came together around third grade. I found school to be an incredible struggle and really didn’t have any role models and really didn’t have any sense that there were people with learning disabilities that were going on to college and being successful. We didn’t have the out and proud celebrities that exist today with learning disabilities that we have when I was a kid. So, the message was clear. Do not talk about this. Don’t embrace help. Don’t ask for accommodations. Just basically try and tough it out throughout school. Luckily, I would go home every night to the parent lottery, as Dave put it. I had parents who were incredibly inspiring and motivating. So, I felt very intelligent throughout my school experience. But I didn’t feel school was embracing that intelligence well.
So, I said to myself: ”What could be the way that I could actually be effective in supporting kids?” So, I went on to become a teacher. I thought, Okay, I’ll be the teacher who understands these kids on a different level, can differentiate the instruction, be more empathetic to their struggles, whatever it is, but I’m not going to tell anybody I have a learning disability. That’s for sure, because that was something I was not comfortable with. But I did know that it was going to inform the way I talked in the classroom. Sure enough, a couple of weeks into my student teaching before I even got my first job teaching, I started misspelling everything on the board, and my kids called me out on it as the way 16-year-olds can. They will call you on your stuff right away.
So, I realized that I had to embrace it. I had to tell them my story. Then I saw my story as a tool, as a way to change the culture of the classroom, and it was… the kids were embracing their accommodations. It normalized something that was really heavy and embarrassing and stigmatized for a lot of kids. I started thinking: How do you scale this experience? And that’s when Dave and I, very fortuitously, got connected by a professor of mine in Keene State who was nurturing me in my first couple of years of my career and checking in with him. I was always good at finding mentors. That’s something I was always really good about. He said, “This guy Dave, he’s running this thing. It was at Brown. I heard him speak at this conference. I don’t think he has any budget or an office or anything, but you should… I think he might have a website.”
Denver: And you still called him up?
David: I picked up the phone. Sure enough, Dave was the one answering the phone at that time. I said, “Dude, what you’re doing sounds really cool. I’m doing something kind of similar in my one classroom. We should get coffee.” We began a monthly chat, and then I started working, doing all-volunteer day, doing whatever needed to be done. After that first year of teaching, I moved to New York in 2007 to work in Dave’s apartment and really begin to combine what Dave had learned from his experience at Brown and his education background in philosophy, and my practice background at Keene State and what I had done in the classroom and said, “Let’s combine these two experiences and build an organization together.”
I think we’ve thought about learning as this way: You open the head, you deposit the knowledge, you close the head. You’re done. Of course, we actually know some of the most powerful learning experiences that we have in life are ones that happen outside the classroom, or outside this traditional form.
… So, the actual excitement, I think it’s a human excitement and one we can experience– seeing somebody else’s learning style, appreciating it and feeding into it. This can be a whole plethora. It can be interpersonal learning. It can be auditory learning. It can be experiential learning. It might be, by the way, sitting down, listening to a lecture and receiving knowledge. That’s all good too. The soul lights up. We’ve all seen these and experienced it. I optimize in my life, and also in my work to help those experiences happen more readily for everyone.
Denver: Listening to you two guys, David, it really just seems that you learn differently. I think that a lot of people think we just learn one way or a couple of different ways. But you’ve done a lot of research on this. Tell us about the different ways that we all learn.
David: I really feel that we need to reframe learning for our next generation. To your point, I think we’ve thought about learning as this way: You open the head, you deposit the knowledge, you close the head. You’re done. Of course, we actually know some of the most powerful learning experiences that we have in life are ones that happen outside the classroom, or outside this traditional form. No question. I learned differently. I would actually argue that, so do you, so does Marcus, so does our guy in the booth here. Thanks for editing. Everyone is doing something different.
So, the actual excitement, I think it’s a human excitement and one we can experience– seeing somebody else’s learning style, appreciating it and feeding into it. This can be a whole plethora. It can be interpersonal learning. It can be auditory learning. It can be experiential learning. It might be, by the way, sitting down, listening to a lecture and receiving knowledge. That’s all good too. The soul lights up. We’ve all seen this and experienced it. I optimize in my life and also in my work to help those experiences happen more readily for everyone.
Eye to Eye is really trying to solve the equity issue that’s in our education system. We do not have an equal playing field for all students and all learners. What we’re trying to do is really improve the life outcomes of students with learning disabilities specifically. They are the population that is dropping out a rate three times their peers. They’re showing signs of depression at earlier ages. They’re getting suspended, ending up in the juvenile justice system. One study out of Texas shows that 50% of the inmates in prison in Texas had learning disabilities.
Denver: Marcus, tell us about Eye to Eye and what the organization specifically does to try to help these young people with these learning disabilities.
David: Eye to Eye is really trying to solve the equity issue that’s in our education system. We do not have an equal playing field for all students and all learners. What we’re trying to do is really improve the life outcomes of students with learning disabilities specifically. They are the population that is dropping out a rate three times their peers. They’re showing signs of depression at earlier ages. They’re getting suspended, ending up in the juvenile justice system. One study out of Texas shows that 50% of the inmates in prison in Texas had learning disabilities. We really wanted to make sure that we could try and solve this problem.
The core of what we do is a mentoring program. We organize high school, college students with learning disabilities themselves – dyslexia, ADHD, other types of learning issues– and bring them into middle schools and use the social-emotional curriculum to teach younger students with learning disabilities about how they learn, giving them a sense of community, really helping them advocate for themselves and their needs. That’s such a huge component of this. The research really shows us that if these students can advocate for themselves and their needs, that they can be successful, regardless of the learning environment they’re in.
Learning keeps changing based on the environment that you’re in. Learning isn’t just a social construct like any other, and if you are able to advocate for yourself throughout high school, college, or the workplace, you’re going to be much more successful. We also do broader outreach work. So, we’ll do community events to bring resources, speakers, knowledge to the communities who don’t have the mentoring program. The mentoring program currently is in 24 states, about 170 schools around the country. We also brought our curriculum onto an app format so people can access Eye to Eye completely for free in their phones. You just go to the App Store and type in Eye to Eye Empower, you can download it there.
We also do what we would call representation work or community building work. We’ll do a billboard series in Times Square for Disability Awareness Month, with our students being the face of learning disabilities, or we’ll appear on TV or PSAs at sporting events. We’ll also partner with organizations that do policy work. We were just recently on the Hill with our students advocating for the policies that are affecting their lives every day… Really bringing the face and voice to the movement, as well as bringing this in the school intervention piece.
Denver: In arts would be at the heart of this mentoring program.
David: It’s a project-based learning, but if you walk into any one of our schools in one of our programs, it’s really art projects. I can give you an example of one. One of my favorite ones is – when I was a kid; a lot of kids are into very popular super heroes right now. Batman has his utility belt. He has all these things. No matter what happens to Batman, he seems to have something on his tool belt to solve it. What we will do with our kids is our mentors come into the school and say, “We are kids with learning disabilities. We learn differently. We’re going to need some tools to succeed in school. So, let’s build utility belts,” our own learning belts essentially. On those belts, these kids build things to help them with their spelling, things that keep them on time, something to be able to listen to their audio books.
When we started off doing this, it was more physical things. Now, it’s basically a series of apps that kids would be able to utilize. But it gets the kids to talk about their challenges, talk about the accommodations that are supporting them in school, and really see that near-peer role model– somebody who is just a little bit older than them, who’s got some tips and tricks to help them get through school. The art breaks down that barrier and helps build that relationship.
Denver: Workarounds and skills to accommodate in a society that sometimes is not all that accommodating.
David: We wish school would be perfect, and one day maybe it will be. But until that day, we’re going to give the kids the tips and tricks and strategies so that they can be successful in an environment that is broken and not fit for them.
Denver: I can hear you guys want to change the culture of school, and that’s really at the heart of a lot of it. What’s the impact of this program? Do you have outcomes in terms of these mentees who’ve been through your program?
David: Perhaps with my theory background, research was super important from the get-go. So, we’ve been doing research on our work for the past 20 years. Actually, this month, we were in partnership most recently with the multi-year study done by UCSF out of California. This month, a peer-reviewed journal published this multi-year study. What we found is that, as we show up in these schools, these kids learn how to advocate for themselves, as Marcus was describing. Their grades go up; their depression goes down. The outcomes that often lead kids to prison are now reversed and are leading them to graduating from high school, college, and beyond.
As I think about really what is now a moral responsibility, that this 20 years of work has said: Your work works, and it can change kids’ lives. Marcus and I spend a lot of time thinking about: now we have this undeniable responsibility to scale this work. The vast majority of time that we spend together thinking is, “Okay, it’s terrific, we’re doing a lot of really, really good work. But we know, as you began, there are 2.4 million kids out there – how are we going to get there? We’re actually very excited. We have a line of sight to solving that problem within the next 10 years.
Denver: Let’s hear that line of sight. Because I think one of the biggest challenges that the entire sector has is: how to scale efficiently and effectively and quickly. It seems we have so many answers to so many problems, but we can’t get them out there at scale. Tell us a little bit about that line of sight, what you plan on doing.
David: I’ll tell you where we’re heading. I’ll tell you how we’ll get there. Where we’re headed is: In the next 10 years, we’re going to be in 50% of all schools in America, serving middle schools who have these kids with diagnosed learning disabilities. The way we’re going to get there is… what we realize is, our volunteer core, these young people, are actually the solution. We often think about young people as problems to solve. In our case, and I think actually in most cases, these young people have the solution. They are the near-peer relationships. We’ve now figured out, because of this incredible force of young people who are willing to share their stories and time, that we can get into schools by finding these high school students.
We’re basically a great recruitment program is what we are now. Because we already have the curriculum. So, we recruit these young people; we teach them how to be mentors, and we’re scaling them to go to their local communities – schools that they know, sharing their stories and working now more extensively also with teachers, so that they feel empowered. I think a lot of the magic of Eye to Eye has been to empower the young students who will say, “I need this to succeed.” But then also, the teachers and the parents will say, That’s okay. You said school culture; half of the challenge is just to normalize that relationship, that exchange. Because what’s happening right now is even in the best-case scenario where a kid says, “I need this,” well-intentioned adults say, “You shouldn’t do it that way, right?” Interestingly, when you get out of school, using an app to help you find directions or to remember something is okay. When you get into school, you have to remember all this stuff. It’s crazy to me. We’re normalizing that culture in schools, and we’re going to get there.
Denver: Marcus, do a lot of the mentees ultimately become mentors?
Marcus: Yeah. When you’re getting as old as David and I are! I think it’s one of the most inspiring and beautiful things about this work is that our program team will go into a school and say: “Why are you choosing to volunteer?” Every year, more and more we’re hearing students say, “I was a mentee in this program, and now I’m ready to give back.” We have mentors who go on and say, “I’m not done giving back. I want to be a teacher and work in the schools and continue this work in my own classroom.” Which is really exciting when you think about scale, of our mentees going on to be the leaders in education that we need to be able to transform these systems. That’s something that’s been really exciting to see over the years… is our mentees going on.
One of the wonderful things we do is… when all of our students graduate from high school or from college is that you get to wear an Eye to Eye cord when they graduate. We mail that to them. This year, we had a giant box that we got to mail out to all the students who are graduating. A lot of our students aren’t wearing the honor cords because they’re not Summa Cum Laude, which is fine as far as I’m concerned. But they are wearing their Eye to Eye cord when they graduate, and every year that box that we mail out in the Spring gets bigger and bigger.
Denver: That’s wonderful. David, you have written a book called, Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide to Parents and Children with Learning Disabilities. Let’s talk a little bit about the parents. What advice do you have for them?
David: I think number one, almost similar to Marcus’ story, even a bit more than mine, is parents need to feel comfortable with the idea that these labels aren’t bad things. Half of the choice to write this book and to share my journey… and also the journey of many, many other students who came through… was really to help parents feel it’s okay to say these words out loud, to tell them to your kids, and to help these kids find their community. A lot of what is in that book is giving parents the tools to be able to do that for their kids. Like Marcus said, we’re not going to be in every community, but we can inspire every community to see greatness in young people.
The app is the freest and fastest way to get involved with Eye to Eye right now. We were really thinking about: How can we make sure what we’ve learned from our program, what we’ve learned from this study with UCSF, can get to more individuals? It’s not the same as having a mentor in your life, but it is something that everybody can access, which is so important to us.
… students identify their strengths, their weaknesses, what accommodations they need, helps them with their goal setting.
… after you’re done going through all the eight quests that the students go through, it collects all that data, aggregates it and puts it into a PDF– an 11-page document that you can share with your teachers, your parents, whoever, your case manager, and now gives that student a voice in that meeting whether they’re there physically or not. It’s really preparing them to be able to advocate for their legal rights.
Denver: Marcus, tell us a little bit more about that app, website, how people can access some of this information before you get to them.
Marcus: The app is the freest and fastest way to get involved with Eye to Eye right now. We were really thinking about: How can we make sure what we’ve learned from our program, what we’ve learned from this study with UCSF, can get to more individuals? It’s not the same as having a mentor in your life, but it is something that everybody can access, which is so important to us. So, the app is a series of quests similar to – based on the art projects or project-based learning that we do in schools where students identify their strengths, their weaknesses, what accommodations they need, helps them with their goal setting. What students and schools right now have is – for people who don’t know, they have an IEP or a 504. That’s their legal document that guarantees some of the rights to be in school – get extended time on tests, a note taker, use audio books, whatever that accommodation would be.
The same thing with the student who might need a ramp to get into a building, students might need an audiobook to listen to a book. Every year, there’s a meeting with the family, the parents, the teachers, the principal, whoever, to make sure this document is correctly put together. What the app does is prepare the student to be involved in that meeting. Because so often, the students have been siloed and are not a part of that conversation. Then they’re told, “Hey, you better advocate for yourself.” It’s like, “Why haven’t I been given the tools or the strategies on how to do that?” The app actually, after you’re done going through all the eight quests that the students go through, it collects all that data, aggregates it and puts it into a PDF, an 11-page document that you can share with your teachers, your parents, whoever, your case manager, and now gives that student a voice in that meeting whether they’re there physically or not. It’s really preparing them to be able to advocate for their legal rights.
David: Marcus and his team created the app. Me and my team created the book. The book is the blueprint for the parents. The app is the blueprint for the kids. Of course, all that is working in concert with the schools. So, we’re really just trying to come in in a holistic way and support these communities because we know everybody can succeed. We’ve just got to give everybody the right frame and tools to be able to do that.
Denver: That’s about the cleanest division of labor I think I’ve ever heard.
You have a very interesting place in which to work. Tell us a little bit about the corporate culture, Dave.
David: It’s interesting. You heard Marcus saying in the beginning, we were working out of my apartment. That’s true. It’s over in Tompkins Place in Brooklyn. You can go check it out. Not many people want to. Once we moved out of there… it’s a nice neighborhood. No reason why you’d go look at some apartment that Dave and Marcus worked out of. As soon as we had literally a staff of three, we said, “We have to pay attention to the same advocacy we’re instilling in our schools, helping people work in a way that optimizes for their learning; we have to do that on our workplace.
Everything that we advocate for in our schools, we do in our workplace, just like our community, although we over index in people who think and learn differently since we are for and by people who learn and think differently. Our employees– about 75%– have things like dyslexia and ADHD. We create the same as we ask for in schools— work IEPs, environments where people can say, “I learn better this way or that way,” and we try and frame for each person a model for which they can succeed.
It’s been very exciting to see articles in Forbes celebrating us as one of the best places to work, and getting the best in the top 10 nonprofits to work at, and things like that. Because all we really did was say, “I’m going to need this accommodation, I’m dyslexic. So, if you send me a long memo, I’m probably not going to read it. But if you let me have it in an audio format, I will.” That’s not a hard accommodation since that’s what we ask for in school. Now, companies are coming and asking us, “Can you come over to Goldman Sachs and help us think a bit about – it turns out, especially people on the trading floor have a lot of ADHD. What do we need to do to make sure that they succeed? Or really just playing the same game that we’ve been playing in school in the workforce. In America, we need to make sure we have a workforce that can succeed. That means that the same things we’re trying to do in school have to pertain to what people show up in the workplace.
Denver: Absolutely. It’s always so nice when your culture is aligned with the actual work you do during the day, and you don’t find that alignment in a lot of organizations. Both of you have great stories. Marcus, share with us a story of someone who’s been through your program, and the difference that it’s made in their lives.
David: We just had an event in San Francisco, and we honored one of our alumni. Her name is Vanessa Montgomery. She lives in San Diego. I think about Vanessa; not only was she in our program, but she’s now an educator herself. What I was speaking about before… that she has not just embraced Eye to Eye and the program, but is living Eye to Eye throughout her entire life. Vanessa was a student out there in the San Diego area working with Eye to Eye, and now is a teacher who’s running her own learning disability conferences at the school, getting other teachers to train, giving them the knowledge to be able to do their work. She’s brought her own story as a perspective of how she teaches and how she lives in the classroom. She’s not only a symbol of success, but she’s bringing all that she’s learned about being a professionally trained educator and the work that she’s done at Eye to Eye into the classroom. That’s something that’s really exciting for Dave and I to think about– somebody who will probably be around after we’re gone, who’s still doing this work, and not just a one-off.
I think that that’s something that’s really important when we think about the work that Eye to Eye is doing… and a lot of other amazing organizations. It’s not just the one-day fundraiser or the carwash or whatever it is. This is something that these people are doing every single week in schools. Our students will do over a hundred thousand hours of community service this year. Being able to then carry on and live that as a part of their life… and not just one experience they had for a year in college.
Marcus: I would add just an additional piece. When you see mentee go to mentor; in the case, Vanessa becoming a teacher, but also, we have alumni, some of whom sit on our board, who’ve been through the entire program, and now they’re giving philanthropically to support the organization. We have alumni who worked in startups. A couple that I won’t mention by name… but let’s just say they’ve gone IPO recently, and they’re very public about their learning and attention issues, and that’s changing culture in big business. What’s exciting is to not just see these mentees become mentors and graduate, but to see that they are taking their stories as a community into wherever they go and creating change.
My first word of encouragement is, tell someone. If you start with just telling your story, guaranteed, one in five people are going to give you a high five. I remember when we first started, I didn’t know how to find other people. I literally made T-shirts. I would walk around and say, “This is what dyslexia looks like.” All of a sudden people would come up to me and say, “Hey, that’s me.” … Whatever it takes to tell your story, that’s step one. The rest will follow.
Denver: That’s great. Let me close with this for both of you. For a young person with dyslexia or ADHD, or some other learning disability, what word of encouragement would you be able to give them to inspire them to forge ahead?
David: They have to understand they’re part of one of the largest hidden minorities in our country. They are one in five people in America. Because we are told that it’s a disability and it’s something that you shouldn’t talk about, you can’t find your community. My first word of encouragement is, tell someone. If you start with just telling your story, guaranteed, one in five people are going to give you a high five. I remember when we first started, I didn’t know how to find other people. I literally made T-shirts. I would walk around and say, “This is what dyslexia looks like.” All of a sudden people would come up to me and say, “Hey, that’s me.” Some of them were a little more eye-catching. “I put the sexy in dyslexia.” We don’t make that one anymore. I found a lot of people that way. Whatever it takes to tell your story, that’s step one. The rest will follow.
Denver: Advertising is really important.
David: It’s the same reason we do billboards in Times Square. You could do it in Times Square, or you can do it in your local community by just telling your story.
Telling your story at a young age is important, and continuing to tell it is also important.
Denver: And it also puts you at ease once you get it out there because you’re not trying to cover it up anymore. You can just be yourself.
Marcus, what would you add?
Marcus: The loneliness piece is something that a lot of… anyone who has a hidden disability or a hidden difference of any kind, I think feels very, very alone. I think that there is value in not only you sharing your story, as Dave was saying, to benefit somebody else, but it does benefit you as well. It does allow you to feel more comfortable on the space. It allows you to be more successful. If you’re working in an office right now, and you’re like, “Man, if I only had XY and Z, I could be more successful.” You need to talk to your boss about that. You need to advocate to HR about those things because they want you to be successful. They’re going to most likely… unless it’s a place you probably shouldn’t be working… they’re going to embrace that because they’re going to want you to be successful at the end of the day. Just understanding that you’re not alone and that by telling your story, you can not only change someone else’s life, but you can also change yours.
David: Can I insert an additional thing around people who are a little older? We were talking before we got on the air about Vanessa Kirsch. Founder of New Profit, one of our board members, one of the first supporters of Eye to Eye. I remember when I first met Vanessa, what I said to her is, “Obviously, you have a great lens in terms of how to scale nonprofits.” For those listening who haven’t heard that interview, you should go back and listen to the New Profit interview. It’s terrific. One of the things that I said to Vanessa, ”I happen to know you’re dyslexic. I’ve seen you talk about it. I don’t see you talk about it that often.”
They hold this big gathering, some of the leading social entrepreneurs and business people come to that gathering. I said, “I’d be excited to work with you and think about how to scale Eye to Eye. But I want you to do next, if you’re willing, is at that next gathering; hundreds and hundreds of people from around the world come to this; start the gathering by saying, ‘Hey, I’m Vanessa Kirsch, and I’m dyslexic, and raise your hand if you are too.’” She said, “I hadn’t’ thought about that.” “All the philanthropy you do in the world is going to be great. But if you do that, it’s going to change things.” She got up the next… how many weeks or months later, I don’t remember… and did that. Guess what? One in five people raised their hand. I think we over-indexed from the social entrepreneurship sector. So I think it was even more. I think one in three CEOs in America and Fortune 500 companies are dyslexic. Telling your story at a young age is important, and continuing to tell it is also important.
Denver: David Flink, CEO, and Marcus Soutra, president of Eye to Eye, I want to thank you both for being here tonight. David, tell listeners about your website and some of those tools that are out there that can help them right away.
David: I hope you’ll visit eyetoeyenational.org where we have resources that we’ve mentioned on the show – the app, my book, also a film which we didn’t discuss called, Road Trip Nation, which is a great film to sit down and watch with your kids. It’s a story of young people going through America, meeting successful adults who have learning and attention issues. You can also go to davidflink.com to learn a bit more about me.
While you’re on that website, you should go and check out our diplomats. We didn’t touch on it too much, but just to end there, our diplomats are a group of trained young people who can come into your schools, share their stories, and start to set the conversation in motion. Eyetoeyenational.org and davidflink.com.
Denver: I want to thank you both. It was a real pleasure to have you on the show.
David: Thank you so much. This was a blast.
Denver: I’ll be back with more of The Business of Giving right after this.
The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at www.facebook.com/businessofgiving.