Although her own education has been an uphill battle for 18-year-old Sarah Leavitt, her determination allows her to dream big and accomplish her goals. A Rancho Penasquitos native and Westview High School graduate, Leavitt was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) during kindergarten.

APD is a condition where the processing and interpretation of sound by the brain is not fully functioning and often has an adverse affect on a student’s ability to process and understand auditory instructions and hinders learning.

Often described as “sweet” and “compassionate”, Leavitt has a love for those with special needs. She has worked with such organizations as Sports for Exceptional Athletes, the Race for Autism, and the Special Olympics. In addition, Leavitt worked with a special education class at Westview during her freshman year as a vocational learning assistant for severely autistic students.

“I want to become a high school autism teacher. I know it seems simple, but I struggled in my early years with my disability a lot and let it get the better part of me,” she explained. “So now I want to give back and be there for these kids and help them overcome their challenges and accomplish things they were told they would never be able to do.”

By the time Leavitt reached the 11th grade, she was completely mainstreamed in her education. She was accepted to four out of five of the universities she applied to, and has just begun her freshman year at Utah Valley University.

This past summer, Leavitt was chosen as one of 60 student delegates for the California Youth Leadership Forum in Sacramento. The Forum, held annually, gave her the opportunity to meet other motivated students and mentors with a range of learning disabilities and personal experiences.

“For the first time in my life, I met two people who struggled with Auditory Processing Disorder and I finally didn’t feel alone anymore,” said Leavitt. “We talked for hours connecting on what it felt like having APD and exchanged helpful tips on how to overcome certain struggles.”

Leavitt hopes to relay her own experiences and accomplishments to other students in similar situations. “I learned a lot on disability history, about self advocacy, and that it doesn’t matter what you have holding you back,” she said. “You can overcome anything and become anything you want to be.”