Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2014

’ CHRIS ANDERSON Speech still comes hard to Chris Anderson ‘08 , whos had a stuttering problem since childhood, but he s found a way to make his message perfectly clear anyway. ’ On July 27, Chris will tackle Ironman Lake Placid. He’ll swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in a single day – with the goal of increasing awareness about stuttering and raising funds to help those dealing with speech issues like his.

SANDI ZOBREST When Lina Zobrest was born seven years ago, she arrived well ahead of her due date. She was healthy, but a bit slow to start talking. Her Nonna – Sandra Mangone Zobrest ’70 – knew just how to help. Using the skills she’d developed as an elementary school teacher, she created her own teaching materials to encourage her to speak. She started with a simple presentation on letters and sounds when Lina was about a year and a half old. The toddler loved the bright colors and sound and motion and, by the time she hit her second birthday, she was much more vocal. Over the past fve years, Sandi has grown a successful online business from those humble roots. She calls it “Nonna and Me,” using the Italian term for grandmother that Lina and her brothers and sister use. Sandi turned her original presentation into a DVD, then a companion book, a coloring book, a CD soundtrack for use in the car, and an ABC bingo game. The latest addition: a set of 101 worksheets for “21st century preschoolers.” The best advertisement for Nonna and Me products might be Lina herself, now an articulate frst-grader who’s reading at a 4th grade level and even collaborating with Sandi on her latest project, a book about Italy and their ancestors’ immigration to America. Sandi’s philosophy is simple. Literacy starts with the ABCs, so you need to get children interested in learning the alphabet and the basics of reading long before they start school. “It’s not your grandmother’s kindergarten anymore. When I went to kindergarten, it was all about socialization and getting to know colors and shapes,” she says. “Now these kids are reading and writing, and even doing full-immersion Spanish.”

’ Chris had always been pretty active, but hed never run a marathon and didn t even know how to swim when he set his sights on the Ironman. So what motivated him to tackle one of the most rigorous Ironman courses in the world? ’ “ Athletes need more than physical strength to complete an Ironman, and he compares the mental strength it takes to get through an event like this to the determination needed to deal with a speech impediment. About two years ago, he decided he was no longer going to let his speech problems defne his life or keep him from pursuing his dreams. He was going to take back his life. ” - Chris has already accomplished a lot: an intelligence studies degree from Mercyhurst; a six year career with the FBI (recognized with an FBI Director s Award for Excellence in Intelligence Analysis); a master s degree in strategic intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College. His speech difculties made each achievement that much more rewarding. ’ ’ “ He had developed outstanding analytical skills at Mercyhurst. Mercyhurst put me light years ahead of the learning curve when I started on the job, he says. “No other school compares to the education you get there for the intelligence feld. ” ” ’ Like many people who stutter, he became frustrated with the critical responses to his stuttered speech and when he couldn t convey his ideas the way he wanted, and his self- esteem sufered. The countless hours a week he now devotes to training for the Ironman are paying of in more than physical conditioning. His workouts have boosted his self-confdence, and led to other successes in speech therapy and his acceptance of himself as a person who stutters. ’ Pledges to Chris s Ironman efort, which he s dubbed “Passing on Your Left, will beneft the National Stuttering Association, an organization hes turned to for support. He fnds it rewarding to help others understand the challenges faced by those who stutter, so hes also at work on a book chronicling his struggles with stuttering and the successes he s achieved. He hopes to publish within the next year, capping of the memoir with the story of the Ironman. ’ ” ’ ’ ’ Even so, he faced challenges. His job requires briefng decision-makers and presenting fndings in front of groups. Stuttering is a communication disorder involving disruptions, or “disfuencies,” in a person’s speech. People who stutter often experience physical tension and struggle in their speech muscles, as well as embarrassment, anxiety, and fear about speaking. Together, these symptoms can make it very difcult for people who stutter to say what they want to say and to communicate efectively with others. The precise cause of stuttering is not known, and there is no simple cure for stuttering, but people who stutter can learn to speak more easily, feel better about themselves and their speaking ability, and communicate more efectively. Learn more at To make a donation to the National Stuttering Association, visit


Made with FlippingBook - professional solution for displaying marketing and sales documents online