In Her Own Words: Samantha Pfeffer ’16

In Her Own Words: Samantha Pfeffer ’16
Carroll School

Last summer, as a rising senior at Muhlenberg College, Samantha Pfeffer ’16 was hardly taking it easy. Fresh off a semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy, she had been selected to participate in a fellowship with Eye to Eye National, an organization devoted to advocating for students with learning differences, which she first learned about as a student at Carroll. As part of the fellowship, she had a final project to produce.

And so, she found herself knee deep in research, interviews, and video editing, ultimately crafting a 30-minute documentary film on the interplay between dyslexia and anxiety. By early August, she was on a plane to Denver, where she presented her work to Eye to Eye’s Board members at their Young Leaders Organizing Institute.

“I wanted to explore questions around dyslexia and anxiety because that’s what I experience,” she explains. Surprised by the lack of a support group on Muhlenberg’s campus to meet her needs, she hopes her film will help to shed some light on a common—and commonly misunderstood—dynamic.

Samantha, who joined the Carroll community in third grade, shares what she learned in the process of making her film, how her dyslexia and anxiety blend and tangle, and how Carroll helped her to embrace her learning differences:

The specialists I interviewed for my documentary made clear that there is no direct causality between dyslexia and anxiety, but that many kids who have dyslexia also suffer from anxiety. Some experts I spoke with have done deep thinking about how to help kids to be aware of and manage their anxiety. There is a real need for social-emotional learning to be more integrated into schools because those skills are very helpful, especially in college.

Even though I understand there is no causality between the two, there are parts of my anxiety that are intertwined with my dyslexia, and there are parts of my anxiety that aren’t. In college, my anxiety has been more prevalent to me, and it feels very related to my dyslexia. I am more aware of needing to advocate for myself. 

Carroll does a really good job including aspects of social emotional learning within the curriculum. Especially in Lower School, I remember. I noticed my anxiety develop outside of school more than in school because Carroll was such a nurturing community.

Looking back, one of the most helpful things about Carroll was just how much attention the teachers put on students individually. Everything was very specific and intentional and tailored, but it still felt like we were all working together. If one student was struggling, everyone practiced that thing, not just the student who was struggling. No one felt left out. 

I’m taking a multimedia journalism class now—I’m a Media and Communications major, with a minor in Business—and we are working collaboratively to create and produce something for our school’s newspaper. It’s very hands-on, like an internship. That’s the kind of class I love and thrive in.

I still struggle, but being able to have conversations with professors, being willing to talk about my struggles, and being clear about what I need is important. My ability to self-advocate I learned at Carroll without even knowing it. Self-advocacy has proven to be one of the most important skills I learned in school before college.

I love doing social media work and feel that I would be good at event planning for specific brands. When I graduate I’d like to work in a public relations agency. I have always said I never want to be at a desk doing the same thing every day; I want to work with people and be creative.

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