Ten-year-old Ida Cortez is special. Just recently relocated to San Francisco after surviving Hurricane Katrina, Ida is in a new school, on a new coast, and making new friends. Ida’s mother Kim Wargo brought her in for an interview to talk about leaving New Orleans and to share her experience living with and learning through dyslexia.
Most of Ida’s memories about the hurricane are not directly related to the storm. She remembers fleeing to Houston and and playing with another girl she met there named Abigail. She remembers some of the material losses of her friends – one in particular losing all her toys, including her extensive Spongebob collection. She also remembers the stress on her parents as they tried to rebuild their community from afar. And what Ida says she learned from all this is that “not everything goes perfect and people have to help each other.” A wise observation I thought from someone so young.
Ida also talked at length about her learning differences, particularly dyslexia. Through living with dyslexia she’s learned both that she can work hard and that she loves to read. She now calls herself a reader with pride. In remarking on what so many think of as learning disabilities or mental illnesses, Ida explains with a true gift of compassion and insight that people have “differences in their brains” and that doesn’t make them necessarily sick or bad.
And I think that’s part of what makes Ida so special. That at the ripe age of 10 she’s been through so much and in those experiences has learned that not only does she bring special gifts but, we all do.