Learning from Failures: Three Student Figure Skater’s Perspectives

Making mistakes and learning from failures have been a daily part of these three women’s lives. They have been bruised, blistered, and disappointed. They wake up very early most mornings and head to the rink to practice. They do not live the “typical student” life. Their lives consist of going to school, working a job, and well, ice skating. I asked each of them to share a powerful story of a challenge they’ve faced over the years as ice skaters that has in turn made them great.


Photo Credit: Maggie Orchard

Maggie Orchard is a junior at DePaul University majoring in Public Relations & Advertising. She has been ice skating for 19 years and coaching for 5 years. Here is Maggie’s story about how she handled a failed routine that put her at the top:

“I stepped on the ice for my last competition. I had been skating for 17 years at this point and I was about to end my figure skating career. I worked so hard to get to where I was, early morning practices and blistered feet. My coach choreographed the perfect program for my last competition. It was to Christina Aguilera, “We Remain.” I still remember the program to this day.

I did my first spin, then my double toe jump. Then I froze, I could not remember what was next, so many things were running through my head, but I knew that I needed to keep going. I started skating and making up the rest of the program on the spot. I heard the song so many times that I knew what was coming next and the parts where I could make it look like I remembered what I was doing.

Even though I made the program up on the spot, I still skated a clean program and was able to include everything that I needed. I could not believe what I had done, when the results were posted it said, “First Place – Maggie Orchard.”

I had never been so shocked and impressed with myself to pull off a clean program that I made up on the ice while I was competing, and then to get first place was pretty cool. Figure skating has taught me to be creative and learn from mistakes. My last competition didn’t go how I had hoped it would, but I think it went better.

Figure skating has pushed me to be dedicated to my work and passionate about success. I think on and off the ice, figure skating is always with and a part of me. I wouldn’t be the same person without it.”


Photo Credit: Courtney Dziadosz

Courtney Dziadosz is a junior at Western Michigan University majoring in sports management. She has been skating for 19 years. Here is Courtney’s story as to how she learned from a mistake and had to work harder because of it:

“In figure skating, there are a number of different U.S. move levels you have to complete. Each level has at least 6 patterns. Once a skater feels they are ready to test, they go in front of a panel of 5 judges. The patterns have to be perfect in order to pass. Each skater gets one re-do out of those 6 patterns. It takes a lot of hard work to pass these tests.

Before going to college, I went through all the levels pretty quickly, except junior level. It was my senior year of high school and I still didn’t pass the junior level. My goal was to finish all the levels before college. I ended up not passing the junior level moves before college and had to continue them at Western.

With it being my first year of college and being a part of a team, it was time consuming to practice these moves. I had to find time in my busy schedule to work on them.

When practicing at Western, I passed junior level and then I passed senior level. I completed both of the hardest levels within a couple of months. I realized that maybe if I didn’t avoid those as much I would’ve passed sooner. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you as long as you have the passion to do so.”


Photo Credit: Clarissa Messina

Clarissa Messina is a junior at East Leyden High School. She has been skating for 12 years. Here is her story about overcoming a challenging experience:

“At nationals of 2015, I was made an alternate in synchronized skating. I would switch in and out of the program. My coach said, “You’ve improved more than anyone else on the team.” One of the girls who was put in, broke a circle and fell, which is a part I’ve never messed up before. That fall caused us to drop down to fourth and barely place. We didn’t receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal.

It made me feel really defeated. I know I could’ve done better, but there’s no way I could’ve proven that. I was just not given the opportunity to show what I could do. That experience shaped me as a skater because my whole attitude changed. I don’t slack off anymore. I work as hard as I can any time I’m on the ice, especially when competing. Before this experience I would work hard, but I didn’t think of it as, “I need to be perfect every time,” sometimes I would just practice “to practice.” Now, I practice like I would perform.

I learned that with skating you just have to persevere and fight through whatever obstacles come your way. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you may not get the opportunity, but you can’t give up.”

Despite these women being different ages and having different levels of skating experience, they have all had to learn from their mistakes and failures. They all believe skating has shaped them through their experiences. Without it, they don’t believe they’d be the students or the people that they are today.

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Four CSD Ladies at DePaul – Their Stories

According to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics in 2011 to 2012, “the percentage of undergraduates who reported having a learning disability was 11 percent.”

While attending a four-year university like DePaul, you are bound to be in a class with a student with a disability and probably not even know it, maybe even more than one. It always makes me feel better to know that I’m not alone and that there are people who deal with similar issues as myself and are still performing well in higher education. I am a CSD student myself. I have a slow processing/reading comprehension “learning difference” as well as difficulty with test-taking specifically and I have ever since I was in 4th grade.

I had the pleasure of speaking with four ladies at DePaul University who identify with having a learning disability/learning difference. Each lady is/was an active member of the CSD community here at DePaul. They shared their various experiences as to how CSD helped shape them individually.

Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) is a place for students to get the help and accommodations they need in order for them to succeed through their academic courier at DePaul University.

Laurel O’Such is a sophomore at DePaul majoring in computer science and minoring in film. She is from Los Altos, California. She loves to cook and do pottery in her free time. Laurel attends Sunday night mass and values her religious time while in college. She is pictured here at the St. Vincent DePaul Church, where she attends weekly mass.

When it comes to CSD, Laurel states: “I love CSD. I mainly use it for test taking and I take my tests in a room by myself.”


Photo: Grace Rohen


Photo: Grace Rohen

Abigail Kayman is a sophomore at DePaul majoring in special education. She is from Elmhurst, Illinois. During her free time she likes to volunteer with special olympics and play tennis. One of her favorite college memories is running home to her sorority sisters during bid day on the DePaul quad, where she is pictured. Abigail is also a huge advocate for the special ed and learning disability community and is pictured balancing a book titled, “The Disability Rights Movement,” because it is something she continues to stand by and advocate for each and every day.

When asked if she had advice for CSD students going into college, Abby states: “Own your disability going into college. It is a part of who you are. Utilize the resources your school offers for students with disabilities; in most cases they are super accommodating, understanding, and will have your back and be a quality support system.”

Abby believes that by having a CSD, it is “leveling the playing field, it’s certainly not cheating.”


Photo: Grace Rohen


Photo: Grace Rohen

Hallie Meunier is an alumna of DePaul originally from Carmel, Indiana. She graduated in 2015 with a major in communications and media and a minor in theater studies. She currently is a student at the The Second City Conservatory Program in Chicago and does her own improv production and stand up. She is “living her dream.” Hallie enjoys going on walks and spending time outside during her free time. She participated in DemonTHON, DePaul’s 24-hr dance marathon, all four years of college and recalls it being one of her favorite memories. She is pictured here outside of the Sullivan Athletic Center/McGrath Arena, where DemonTHON takes place annually on DePaul’s campus.

According to Hallie: “Just because a student is smart, well-spoken, and gets good grades, doesn’t mean (school) comes easy. You never know what is going on inside someone else or how their mind works.”

Reflecting back on her time at DePaul, Hallie says: “CSD was a great support system for me. It allowed me to ask for help when I needed it and it helped me accept myself for who I am.”


Photo: Grace Rohen


Photo: Grace Rohen

Madison Page is a junior at DePaul University majoring in business management and entrepreneurship. She is from Long Beach, California. Her favorite hobbies include: singing, reading, hanging out with friends, and (most importantly) napping. She is pictured below at Brownstones, one of DePaul cafe’s. Madi loves to sit and chat with friends while drinking a cup of coffee. It is one of her favorite spots on campus.

In regards to her experience with CSD, Madi states: “CSD really helped me learn time management. I don’t have to stress about getting the classes I want with early registration, which has been extremely helpful.”


Photo: Grace Rohen


Photo: Grace Rohen

Each woman is photographed where they spend a majority of their time on campus and is a pivotal spot(s) in shaping their academic and personal lives. Spots are cited here on the map.

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HUGE thank you to Laurel O’Such, Abigail Kayman, Hallie Meunier, and Madison Page!

A CSD DePaul Student’s Perspective on Learning Disabilities

“The NCES found that 94% of high school students with learning disabilities receive some form of assistance. In contrast, only 17% of college students with learning disabilities take advantage of learning assistance resources at their school.”

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Many of us know someone with a learning disability or even a friend or family member with one. In college, we hear less and less about learning disabilities, it isn’t as though they stop existing, students just aren’t getting the help they need.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association states: “the laws mandate that postsecondary institutions (like DePaul) provide equal access to programs and services for students with learning disabilities.”

While attending a four-year university like DePaul, you are bound to be in a class with a student with a disability and probably not even know it, maybe even more than one.

I myself am a CSD student at DePaul. “CSD” stands for Center for Students with Disabilities. I have a slow processing/reading comprehension “learning difference” as well as difficulty with test-taking specifically and I have ever since I was in 4th grade. So I was given a Section 504 documentation of my disability.

A Section 504 is basically documentation stating the rights of an individual with a disability. It is essentially the proof of a disability and is the reason a student is eligible for academic accommodations.

Lots of college students are in denial of their learning disability or are deliberately choosing not to advocate for themselves for fear of being judged or harassed.

I interviewed Abby Kayman, who is also a CSD student in my sorority, Delta Gamma.

I asked her the question, “If you could give one piece of advice to a high school senior with a learning disability transitioning into college, what would it be?”

She said, “Own your disability going into college. It is a part of who you are. Utilize the resources your school offers for students with disabilities because in most cases they are super accommodating, understanding, and will have your back and be a quality support system” (Kayman).

Regardless of what type of learning difference or disability a student has, they can and are still going to four-year universities just like any average student. The difference is, they’re just doing it their way.

“Fast Facts – Students With Disabilities.” National Center for Education Statistics. N.p., n.d.                      Web. 16 April. 2017.

“Learning Disabilities: Issues in Higher Education.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association., n.d. Web. 16 April. 2017.

Kayman, Abby. “Being A CSD Student at DePaul.” Personal interview. 16 April. 2017.

Most Popular Ranking Dog Breed in Chicago in 2016

CHICAGO – As of March 21, 2017, the Labrador Retriever ranks as the most popular dog breed for the 26th record-breaking year in a row according to PR Newswire’s article on dog breeds in Chicago. The study was done by the American Kennel Club’s 2016 ranking of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. as well as in major cities.

Following the Labrador Retriever at number one, the French Bulldog, the German Shepherd Dog, the Golden Retriever, and the Rottweiler fall behind respectively for 2016’s most popular dog breeds in Chicago: “The Labrador Retriever may hold the top spot for now, but the French Bulldog is quickly rising up the ranks,” said AKC Vice President Gina DiNardo.

Chicago’s Most Popular Dog Breeds in 2016:

  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. French Bulldog
  3. German Shepherd Dog
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Rottweiler


Having a Yellow Labrador Retriever mixed with a Golden Retriever, as pictured above, I know first hand how amazingly loving and people friendly these dogs are. It’s no wonder they are listed as number one in Chicago and in the U.S. The image above is of my dog Rosie. She will be ten years old next month, but still acts like a puppy. Rosie is incredibly smart, loving, and family-friendly. She has been one of the best dogs to grow up with and I feel extremely lucky to have had her as my first dog.