In the basement of the Santa Barbara school district offices, among shelves of aging textbooks and obsolete equipment, is a clean, well-lit room. Staring down from the walls are head shots of Whoopi Goldberg, Albert Einstein, Charles Schwab, Usher, Tom Cruise, and Bella Thorne — all famous and all dyslexic. The room is a resource center for parents of children with learning (and other) disabilities, filled with books and videos largely donated by activists Joan and Les Esposito. For Joan, running the nonprofit Dyslexia Awareness Resource Center (DARC) was a labor of love. When she was ready to retire, she found that most potential successors wanted money for their labor. So she disbanded the nonprofit and doled out her furniture to friends and acquaintances. She and Les, however, did not want to break up their library. So they donated it to the district.
Enter Cheri Rae, dyslexia advocate, author, and former volunteer at the DARC. She designed and arranged the Parent Resource Center, a longtime ambition of hers, where parents can learn about their childrens’ learning disabilities as well as successful methods for overcoming them. Joan was home ill, but her husband, Les, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the district offices on Tuesday night. He had not seen the center before, and after entering said, “I was blown away … this is a dream come true.” Along with an estimated $70,000 collection of books is a television for viewing videos, a research station with a computer, and a worktable. It was important to Les that the library be free to the public, which it will be, although hours have not yet been established.
When schools superintendent David Cash said, “I do believe this is the beginning of a new age,” he may have been referring to the fact that the Espositos have not always seen eye to eye with the school district. But, said Les, at the end of the day, they share the same goal of helping kids.