The Krist Law Firm, P.C. National Scholarship 2016 Winner
Meet the recipient of the The Krist Law Firm, P.C. 2016 National Scholarship, a $10,000 award to a deserving student who demonstrates good character and high initiative. Brian Meersma’s story is one of persistence in the face of personal obstacles and a tenacious desire to use his education and future career to help others, qualities that embody the spirit of the scholarship and the values embraced by The Krist Law Firm, P.C.
Brian Meersma experienced an “a ha!” moment sometime when he was in middle school. After being diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade, he found that it was getting harder to read as his assignments became more complex. He spent so much time just getting through each sentence or each word of the book that he was losing the larger plot and meaning. So he asked his visiting grandfather to read to him.
A light switched on in that moment for Meersma. When he was hearing the text rather than looking at it, it all made sense. He even started to enjoy the book. “I discovered it was pretty cool,” he said. “I liked it when I could understand what was happening in the book.”
After that, Meersma sought technological solutions that could help him overcome his dyslexia and excel as a student. It was the beginning of a journey that would see him blossom not only as a student who would enroll at an Ivy League university, but also as an advocate for other people with disabilities. Meersma is now a junior at Cornell University and recipient of a $10,000 scholarship from The Krist Law Firm, P.C.
The firm’s lead Houston trial attorney Scott Krist, said he was impressed with Meersma’s passion for helping people with disabilities — a passion that Krist and his law firm share.
“I thought his selfless devotion was admirable,” Krist said.
The personal injury law firm in Houston represents people who have suffered serious or catastrophic injuries through the actions of others and helps them to obtain the compensation that can have a profound impact on the quality of life of someone who has experienced a debilitating injury such as a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord damage.
Often, the people Krist represents have had their lives permanently altered by their injuries and must find ways to adjust to a “new normal” and live around the effects of their injuries — similar to Meersma’s experience of using assistive technology to overcome his dyslexia and to thrive in school.
Krist started the annual scholarship in 2015 because he relishes being able to help students achieve their dreams and goals in life, and recognized that the cost of college has become a barrier for too many students these days. At $10,000, the scholarship can represent a significant portion of annual tuition for a student.
For Meersma, the scholarship represents the opportunity to focus fully on his studies and his advocacy work rather than juggling a part-time job and a full-time course load. His dyslexia means it takes him longer to complete assignments than for a student without a similar reading challenge.
“It will be a big help in that way,” Meersma said of the scholarship.
Meersma is a student in Cornell’s interdisciplinary Industrial & Labor Relations Program, with an interest in disability advocacy in the workplace.
He’s been an advocate for assistive technology since he was in high school, where he started a reading club for students with various types of disabilities and showed them how to download accessible ebooks that had text-to-speech functions or the capability to enlarge the font. He started a blog to review assistive technology and provide information to people with disabilities to help them make decisions about types of technology that might aid their reading and learning.
His blog caught the attention of grassroots disability advocacy groups and led to his being invited to speak at conferences and to participate in legislative advocacy in his home state of New Jersey. He spoke in support of bills adding a definition of dyslexia into state law, requiring teachers to receive training in how to work with students with dyslexia, and mandating early screening for dyslexia in schools.
Meersma also has met with members of Congress about funding for dyslexia research, and was invited to participate in a White House panel discussion about experiences living with a disability as part of a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
After graduating from Cornell in 2018, he foresees a future career path that includes continuing advocacy, possibly related to education policy or civil rights laws affecting people with disabilities.
About The Krist Law Firm, P.C.
The personal injury attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. supports the local Houston community and all those pursuing a higher educations. In the state of Texas and the Greater Houston area, we support those injured in maritime accidents, serious truck accidents, and more.