Outstanding Teen Advocates for Dyslexia Awareness
Claire Bohn doesn’t have to look very far to see the effect that dyslexia can have on people.
“Dyslexia runs in my family, and my brother has it,” she said. “Growing up watching him struggle with dyslexia, I really wanted to help others who have dyslexia.”
Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes reading difficult. In addition to seeing how the condition has affected her brother, Bohn has watched her mother, Kris Bohn, work with students who have dyslexia as a speech-language pathologist and the owner of Sturgeon Bay’s Door County Speech Therapy.
“Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence,” Kris Bohn said. “So the kids are bright kids who understand that they are not able to read or write as well as their classmates, but they don’t understand why. They just know that they’re different.”
When Claire Bohn, a Sturgeon Bay High School senior, competed for and won the title of Miss Door County’s Outstanding Teen in February, it was easy for her to choose a cause to champion.
Though about 20% of people have dyslexia, a lack of awareness and accommodation for the condition leads many students with dyslexia to struggle in school and experience mental illness at higher rates.
“It leads to anxiety, of course, walking into school every day, knowing that you’re going to fail,” Kris Bohn said.
That’s why Claire Bohn’s campaign is focused specifically on the importance of early intervention. Her advocacy is part education and part fundraising as she visits local classrooms, posts about the condition on social media and raises funds in partnership with Bright Young Dyslexics (BYD), a De Pere–based nonprofit that seeks to fund tutoring and assistive technology for students with dyslexia while also raising awareness about it. Many of the students Kris Bohn works with receive funds from the program, and BYD has agreed to keep the money that Claire Bohn raises here in the local community.
“Every donation that I get specifically for Door County will come back to Door County for the students and kids here so they can get the help that they need,” Claire Bohn said. This month, she started raising funds for BYD through ads, radio appearances and other outreach work.
Claire Bohn’s advocacy makes it clear that Miss Door County’s Outstanding Teen is more than just a beauty contest, Kris Bohn said. Instead, Miss Door County began as a scholarship program in 1997, and it added the Outstanding Teen program in 2011. Both programs honor young women who demonstrate their commitment to community involvement and advocacy for a cause of their choice.
The application process – which involves tryouts, résumés and an interview with a panel of judges – isn’t easy, but Claire Bohn said the difficult process was worth it and that she’ll keep up her dyslexia advocacy in the future.
“Even after my years as Miss Door County’s Outstanding Teen and possibly Miss Door County, I will always advocate for it,” she said.
To donate to BYD, visit brightyoungdyslexics.org and include the words “Door County” to ensure that the funds stay local.