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Meet Lois Ford LaBauve Scholarship Recipient Ellie Gilchrist

By Jessica Sinn

image of Ellie Gilchrist

Ellie Gilchrist, a humanities honors/business communications sophomore, is the recipient of the 2020-21 Lois Ford LaBauve Scholarship, an award given to outstanding students with disabilities. Read on to learn more about her love of reading and writing—and how this “new normal” of remote learning has set her on a path of self-discovery.

How will this scholarship come in handy during your time at UT Austin?

I was very happy to receive this scholarship, which amounts to around $1,000. I’ve always wanted to travel abroad with an English program in Oxford, so this will help me get there. It’s amazing to think that I’ve come this far with dyslexia and dysgraphia—and that I can further my reading and writing to this extent. After this year, I feel like a totally different person in the best way!

What drew your interest in business communications, and where do you see yourself after college?

I’ve always like reading and writing, so I came to UT wanting to be an English major. During the pandemic, I realized that I don’t really enjoy reading and writing papers by myself all of the time—and that I really love collaborating with people and talking about what I’m reading. I’ve found that I’m really and extravert, so I changed my major because business communications is a much better fit. As  for the future, I have so many different visions for myself. I have plenty of time to figure it out, but I do know that I want to be in a job that allows me to interact with people and to help others.

Would you be open to sharing a bit about your disability?

Back in elementary school, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD. It began when my teacher told my parents that I could never keep track of my pencil and that my learning was slow. To catch up with my classmates, I had to sit out of PE every day to work with my reading coaches. It was a struggle, but in third grade I read Percy Jackson, and that’s when I discovered I absolutely loved reading. It didn’t feel like a big challenge because I was so engrossed in the story. I read at a much slower rate than most people, but I don’t mind. I pick up on details much better because I take my time reading sentences and enjoy soaking every word up.

How has Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) helped you along your journey here at UT?

SSD has been such a great source of support ever since I first came to UT. Even on my hardest days, I can email my coordinator Eden Stone, and she’ll help me figure out which resources I need to get through a rough patch. UT is big, but there’s a network of people who care. If you reach out, someone will point you in the right direction.

What message would you like to share with people with and without disabilities?  

One thing I’ve learned to be true is that a disability may deter you, but it will never hold you back.  Some things that are perceived as bad can actually change things for the better. For me, that means reading at a slower pace and taking in the details that many people would overlook.

My advice for students who believe they may have a disability is to go get diagnosed. If you have the time and the resources to do so, please do it so you can get the tools you need.  There are so many helpful people here at UT and in the community who are more than willing to help; you just have to ask.

More about the Lois Ford LaBauve Scholarship

This scholarship is given in memory of Lois Ford La Bauve. Ms. La Bauve was a Texas school teacher for many years and always displayed a passion for learning. She was the director of Services for the Blind and Disabled at the Texas State Library and founded the Texas Talking Book program. At least one scholarship for a minimum of $500 will be awarded per year for students who have a disability that impairs their ability to access printed material. If funding is available, additional scholarships and/or scholarships of a larger monetary value will be awarded. Applications are reviewed during the spring semester. Scholarships are awarded in the fall semester.