Whitnall student passes a difficult test toward success
Emily Meyer overcomes personal, academic adversity to win Herb Kohl Initiative Scholarship
Greenfield — Like many mothers and daughters, Emily Meyer and her mother, Beth Binash-Meyer, share a special bond. They play board games together at home, look at old pictures, and have open, honest conversations.
But unlike for most mothers and daughters, death is now a necessary topic of discussion.
Binash-Meyer was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of Meyer's sophomore year at Whitnall High School. Since then, the cancer has spread to Binash-Meyer's spine and brain and doctors have deemed it terminal.
"We speak about that openly," said Binash-Meyer. "That's our norm."
Meyer's mom has always been her best advocate and No. 1 fan, said Janet Callender, Meyer's guidance counselor at Whitnall. That's why when Meyer received the Herb Kohl Initiative Scholarship this year, her mom was the first to tear-up.
"We could not be more proud of her," said Binash-Meyer.
The Kohl Initiative Scholarship is awarded each year to 85 high school students in Wisconsin who have demonstrated a high level of motivation, shown strong promise for achieving success and have overcome significant personal obstacles or adversity. Callender nominated Meyer for the scholarship.
After learning of her mother's diagnosis, Meyer said she started working harder in school to compensate for her lower grade point average, which was 2.8 as a freshman.
"I really wanted to try hard and show my mom that I am strong, too, and that I can be the best no matter what," said Meyer, who is an only child.
Meyer upped her GPA to 3.6 as a graduating senior, but it wasn't that easy. Math and reading classes gave Meyer the most trouble because the content moved quickly.
However, with an Individualized Education Program, or one-on-one support for her specific learning style, she succeeded. She would often have to meet with teachers one-on-one or take tests in another room with her IEP teacher.
"She truly overcame an adversity — from not wanting to receive any help, to accessing support regularly and working her tail off and being proud of her accomplishment," Callender said.
She also learned self-advocacy skills.
"I proved to myself that if I work really hard I can do well and succeed," Meyer said.
Not a disability
Meyer has had an IEP since she was in fifth grade, but some people have confused it with having a learning disability.
"Anytime (disability) was brought up, it was an opportunity to tell them about what a disability is verses a different means for learning," Binash-Meyer said.
And as someone who regularly works with disabled children through the Respite Program at Children's Hospital and nannying, Meyer is especially sensitive to the label.
"Everyone learns differently and I can work with them and with what works best for them," she said.
Meyer will start college in the fall at Waukesha County Technical College, with plans to study early childhood education. She will live at home to spend as much time with her mom as possible.
"She has always put me in front of her, which I thought was amazing," said Meyer. "I want to live in the moment now and make sure I'm always there for her."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Greenfield starts review of proposed 2016 city budget
- Milwaukee suburbs trick-or-treat times 2015
- Greenfield School Board to fill vacancy by appointment
- Little Free Library in Greenfield gift of love — twice
- Greenfield Police blotter
- Amphitheater plan in Greenfield moves along with help of impact fees
- Attendant to oversee Greenfield solid waste drop-off site (2)
- Ditch won't stop $150 million proposed commercial, residential project in Greenfield
- Partnership buys Barnes & Noble Center in Greenfield
- Ordinance allowing beekeeping to be drafted in Greenfield