Teachers College alumnus David Flink (M.A. ’08), Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of Eye to Eye, a mentoring movement run for and by people with learning disabilities/ADHD, has been named a CNN Hero.
Flink is the author of Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities (HarperCollins 2014).
CNN has recognized Flink for his efforts to empower students who learn differently. Eighty percent of Eye to Eye students graduate from college — a sharp contrast with the national statistic that children with learning disabilities are three times more likely to drop out of high school. Eye to Eye also has developed a series of Young Leaders Organizing Institutes to help LH/ADHD youth advocate for themselves.
“It’s just crazy to me when we think about groups of students who are likely to fail, we don't look at the thing that they’re showing up to do, which is learn,” Flink says in a CNN segment that features current students who explain how the mentoring program has helped them in school and beyond, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This group has the highest dropout rate in our country. We can solve for that.”
In receiving TC’s Early Career Award at the College’s Academic Festival in 2017, Flink recalled his own struggles in elementary school before being diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. Frequently banished from the classroom for unruly behavior, he was saved by a janitor who played chess with him and by his own facility for performing magic tricks, which gave him confidence. Those experiences, later supplemented by the master’s degree in what was then dis/ability studies that he earned at Teachers College, shaped his philosophy that “LD” means “learning difference,” not “learning disorder,” and signifies membership in “a valuable and important minority.”
It’s just crazy to me when we think about groups of students who are likely to fail, we don't look at the thing that they’re showing up to do, which is learn.
— David Flink (M.A. '08), Founder and Chief Empowerment Office, Eye to Eye
He cofounded Eye to Eye while he was a student at Brown University, recruiting LD college students to help LD youngsters develop critical social and emotional skills, understand their own learning styles and learn to ask for help.
“It was lightning in a bottle,” Flink says in the CNN segment. “All of a sudden, all this stuff that we thought was really taboo and doesn’t sound good — we discovered they were just words. Under all of that was potential.”