Charles Schwab and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation
Making a Difference
Most highly successful businessmen don't reveal what might be construed as vulnerability. Clearly, it just isn't considered good business sense. In highly competitive marketplaces, any sign of weakness could be a signal for a takeover or a "hostile action." At the same time, most Americans are not comfortable openly talking about disabilities, particularly their own. And learning disabilities are not readily "visible"—not immediately signaled by a cane, wheelchair, glasses, or hearing aid. Such disabilities are not even understood by many of the individuals affected or by their families. The result is that too often, individuals with learning disabilities have to struggle on their own and figure it out by themselves, with little opportunity to profit from the guidance of people who have successfully compensated for or overcome the effects of their learning disabilities.
One highly successful businessman decided to break with tradition and speak out about the challenges he faced in school, and others are now joining him, serving as role models for individuals with learning disabilities and providing assistance to parents, teachers, and kids. Charles Schwab, the billionaire who founded the discount stock brokerage house, has faced the challenges of learning disabilities his whole life. His academic strengths were math and science, but he struggled with reading and all of its related subjects. Charles Schwab demonstrated his resilience and innovative thinking from a young age when he discovered that classic comic books, such as Moby Dick, provided an easier way to read "novels" assigned in English classes (Askman, 2005). Despite his reading problems, Charles Schwab persevered through college and graduate school, earning a BS and an MBA from Stanford University by focusing on his strengths—subjects related to numbers, such as economics. Two years after graduating from Stanford, he started an investment advisory newsletter, and a few years later, he founded his own brokerage house in San Francisco. Because he thought that the stock market should be accessible to everyone, he initiated the concept of the discount brokerage firm (Jones, 2003).
After discovering that his son had a learning disability, Charles Schwab and his wife, Helen, decided to help other families who struggled with this invisible disability. They started Schwab Learning, which operates two Web sites—one for parents (www.SchwabLearning.org) and one for kids (www.SparkTop.org™). SchwabLearning.org gives parents the answers to the million-and-one questions they have when their child has learning disabilities. The site addresses a parent's practical needs with information about IEPS, behavior issues, and the like; it also provides emotional support so parents know they are not alone in this journey. SparkTop.org is a place where kids with learning disabilities can learn about how their brains work, feel good about themselves, get answers to their questions, and enjoy the company of other kids just like them. The site reassures kids with LD that they're just as smart as other kids. They may struggle with reading or writing or math, but there are lots of things they're good at.
Charles Schwab took an invisible disability and made it okay to be visible.
To see how these two Web sites make a difference in the lives of teenagers with learning disabilities and parents of children with learning disabilities of all ages, check out: www.schwablearning.org, and www.sparktop.org
© ______ 2007, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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