By Jayna Omaye
After attending schools that didn’t know how to support someone with learning differences, Emily Abramson was excited to begin her first semester at Beacon College. Along with earning degrees in human services and psychology in 2019, she also met someone at the Leesburg campus who’d change her life forever: her future husband.
Abramson, 27, first spotted Ari Berkowtiz, a computer information systems major, on their first day at Beacon in 2015. After confessing to a friend that she thought Berkowitz was cute, she mustered up the courage to ask him out a week later.
“My friend said, ‘I’ll give you a week, and if you don’t tell him, I’m going to announce it to the whole school with a megaphone,’” Abramson recalled. “I ran over, and I said, ‘I think you’re really cute.’ My face turned beet red, and my hair was over my face. And he said, ‘I think you’re really cute, too.’”
The couple graduated from Beacon in 2019 and got married in May at a ceremony in Rockville, Maryland, in front of 50 friends and family. One of Abramson’s best friends from Beacon served as her maid of honor. The newlyweds plan to visit Cape Cod for their honeymoon this summer and hope to travel to Europe or Hawaii later on.
Abramson, a Maryland native, described their wedding as “everything I had ever dreamed of.” A self-described go-getter, she also proposed to Berkowitz when the pair lived together while at Beacon.
“I’m one of those people who if I want something, I’ll go for it,” she says. “I was like, ‘please can we get married?’ And he was like, ‘OK.’ I think it showed the level of respect that the two of us have for each other.”
Besides meeting the love of her life at Beacon, Abramson, who was diagnosed with dyscalculia, mild dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is on the autism spectrum, found a community of supportive, caring people — two qualities she always hoped for but never enjoyed when attending high school and community college prior to Beacon.
Her learning specialist and professors helped her through personal struggles and taught her how to manage her learning differences in the workplace by setting a schedule and disclosing her differences early on. She sets alarms to remind her of daily tasks and has a checklist to ensure she sticks to her routine.
“A lot of people didn’t think I was going to graduate from college,” she said. “I had a professor at the community college, and she said to me, ‘you’re so dumb. You’re only going to flip burgers.’”
But now as a behavioral health aide at a school in Maryland that serves students with special needs, Abramson says her learning differences help her better understand and relate to her kids. The best part of the job is when her students reach those “aha moments” and everything comes together for them. She understands that same feeling, too.
“When you see a child accomplish something, that brings me so much joy,” she says. “There needs to be more schools like Beacon. It’s an excellent model for what schools should offer for kids with these unique needs.”