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Education major graduates early despite cerebral palsy, financial obstacles

Diana with students from 16th and Haak Elementary School
Diana Livingston with students from 16th & Haak Elementary School - Photo by Theo Anderson

It is incredible enough that Diana Livingston is graduating from Penn State Berks at the age of 20 with a B.S. in Elementary and Kindergarten Education, along with her twin sister, Krisandra, on May 4, 2013. 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 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 tenth grade, they had 40 college credits and they took her 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 enroll in 2010. She will complete her student teaching on Friday, April 26, 2013, at 16th and Haak Elementary School in Reading.

“She has just blossomed as a teacher,” beams 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 they 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,” states Livingston.

In addition, her brother, Michael, is following in her footsteps in B.S. in Childhood and Early Adolescent Education. 

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, 2013.

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