For much of his life, college felt out of reach for Josh Bickford.
“I am the youngest of three kids, and both of my siblings knew they would go to college and pursue their degrees. In sixth grade, I started thinking I wouldn’t be able to cut it,” Josh recalls.
In elementary school, he had a hard time reading, and his teacher recommended that Josh be tested. That’s when he discovered that he had dyslexia. His parents weren’t surprised since both his mother and grandfather have dyslexia, but Josh remembers struggling, especially in the early years following his diagnosis.
“Dyslexia was pretty overwhelming. I was getting pulled out of classes and separated for tests, which made me think I was different. ”Things began to change when Josh enrolled at the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Greater Boston.
“Up until the Dyslexia Center, I wasn’t comfortable reading aloud. I stumbled and missed words when reading. At the Center, they told me that everyone does it. Everyone there was really patient,” he said. “The Dyslexia Centers started a really good foundation for me. They gave me a lot of the tools for how to spell, how to write, how to read. It seems easy, but they’re the tools that help me survive today."
When he was twelve years old, Josh joined DeMolay, and his self esteem continued to grow. “It was intimidating at first because I’m bad at public speaking. I didn’t have the body language or confidence,” he said. “Then, I realized it’s all built up in your head. Now I’m better at networking, at reaching out to people, at public speaking.”
Josh went on to become State Master Councilor for Massachusetts DeMolay, an accomplishment that makes him feel especially proud. “When I achieved that goal, it was surreal. It was just a pipe dream. I didn’t think I could actually have it.”
It was through DeMolay that Josh first heard about the Abbott Scholarship program. The skills he picked up through attending the Dyslexia Center and his work in DeMolay made him see that college was an attainable dream.
“Once I could see that a college load and classes and homework were manageable on my own, I realized that if I wanted a degree, I could go for it.”
This fall, Josh begins his first year at Norwich University, a military college in Vermont. Eventually, he’d like to become an officer in the Marine Corps.
“The military has always been in my family. My grandfather was in the military. I like the comradery of the military and the fraternal feeling of always having each other’s backs,” he said. The cost of college is a major concern for students, and receiving an Abbott Scholarship has helped relieve some of this burden for Josh.
“The Abbott Scholarship is giving me the opportunity to have the future I always wanted. It’s helped me pay for textbooks, and with the unusual school I’m going to, it’s helped pay for my uniform and boots.
"Josh states, “I just want to say a big thank you to the people who make the Abbott Scholarship possible.”
*This article first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of The Northern Light magazine.*