Education major graduates early despite cerebral palsy, financial obstacles

It is incredible enough that Diana Livingston is graduating from Penn State Berks at the age of 20 with a bachelor of science in elementary and kindergarten education along with her twin sister, Krisandra, on May 4. It is astonishing that she was able to graduate two years before her peers despite having cerebral palsy and financial obstacles.

Livingston has not let cerebral palsy hold her back – in fact, she thinks it has motivated her to succeed. Even though she has had to endure 13 surgeries for her condition, she was able to complete her education early through hard work and dedication.

She explains that she and her sister began taking night classes in eighth grade at a community college because their high school did not offer a dual enrollment program. By the time they finished 10th grade, they had 40 college credits and they took the SATs early.

After visiting Penn State Berks, Livingston fell in love with the campus and decided to change her major from secondary education to elementary and kindergarten education, offered by Penn State Berks, and enrolled in 2010. She will complete her student teaching on April 26, at 16th and Haak Elementary School in Reading.

“She has just blossomed as a teacher,” said her teaching mentor Sandra Madeira, a fourth-grade teacher at 16th and Haak Elementary School. “When we first met last May, Diana was quiet and a little shy. I knew she was very intelligent but she needed to learn to become a teacher.

“Over the last year, she has learned to adapt her instruction to meet the differing educational needs of all the students in the classroom. But most important of all, she cares about her students, about the people they will become and about their character as well as their academics.”

Watching Livingston with her class makes it obvious that her students care about her as well, hanging on her every word as she energetically makes her way around the classroom.

In addition to excelling in the Penn State Berks classroom and the classroom where she is student teaching, Livingston is a Schreyer Scholar, a member of the Student Government Association, the Campus Activities Board, the Honors Club, the National Science Teachers Association and several honors societies.

While her accomplishments at the college have been impressive, Livingston credits the college with providing the opportunities for her to excel.

“Everything I have been able to do is because of Penn State Berks,” stated Livingston.

In addition, her brother, Michael, is following in her footsteps in the bachelor of science in childhood and early adolescent education program. He is a junior in high school.

Livingston explains that her mother is a single parent who suffers from a brain tumor, so she has had to rely on scholarships for her education. She just turned 20 on April 23.

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Last Updated May 02, 2013