By Richard Burnett
As a child growing up in suburban Philadelphia, Heather Reed-Daly worked hard to fend off failure in school. Though wrestling with dyslexia and other learning issues, she managed to graduate from high school, took a job at a car dealership and thought she’d put formal schooling behind her.
Then came Beacon College.
Her mother, a registered nurse, was on a professional trip to Florida in 2010 when she discovered Leesburg-based Beacon — the country’s first accredited undergraduate school for students with learning disabilities. One thing led to another and in the spring of 2011, Reed-Daly began her freshman year.
“School had left a bad taste in my mouth, so I had gone into the workforce, only to find it was just as difficult,” she said. “Coming to Beacon was like having a kind of reset in my life, being able to figure out who I was with my disability and to take ownership of it. It was also a chance to really take control of my learning so I could turn around and help others.”
Reed-Daly hit the ground running at Beacon. She flourished academically and became an officer in the Beacon Chapter of the Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society. As a resident assistant, she helped with orientation for new students and assisted teambuilding exercises. In her sophomore year, she was a student ambassador, leading tours for students and parents and representing the college at education fairs.
She impressed everyone with her people skills, insights into campus life, and ready grasp of Beacon’s importance to the community. Before long, Reed-Daly was fast-tracking into a series of jobs and a career in college admissions. She graduated in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems in the web and digital media track.
Today, she is Beacon’s assistant director of admissions, a position she has held since September 2019.
A job that was meant for her
Sandy Novak remembers the moment she met Reed-Daly more than a decade ago — “a vibrant, enthusiastic, artistic soul who was a real people person and had a passion for social media and marketing.”
“For her to end up in the position she’s in now is such a perfect fit,” said Novak, a retired professor emeritus in Beacon’s business & technology department. “Right away, in the early days of her job, she showed her skills in web design and social media. Now she’s right in the heart of the college’s initiatives in that area, and she uses those skills in helping others walk in her shoes.”
Reed-Daly felt like she was meant to share the story of Beacon and her own personal story of how the college experience — including teachers, faculty and bonding with fellow students — changed her life.
“It was a realization I wasn’t the only one who had felt like a failure at other schools,” she said. “We were all looking to be better than who we were when we arrived at Beacon. We were looking to get out of our own way. And we did!! We helped each other grow and had a good time along the way.”
Embracing a path of your own
Reed-Daly looks back with gratitude at the chapters of her life at Beacon — from academic success and career direction to personal milestones like meeting her husband, Brett Daly, a 2014 graduate who is now an eLearning support specialist II at Embry Riddle University.
Her goal now is to pay it forward to young people who face some of the same challenges that she faced in education and life.
“I’d like to be a mentor or life coach and help those like myself,” she said. “I want to help them see that though their path may not be like that of others, it’s a path all their own that they can embrace and walk with confidence.”