Mariana Gillen Sanchez learned at an early age that she’s different. The 16-year-old was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade, making it clear to her why she had difficulty reading and going with the flow of studying with her classmates.
What initially looked like an impediment to learning, she turned it around and did something amazing to help herself and other students as well. She was generous enough to spend some time with PBC Voice to talk about her initiative, the M.A.R.I. Kits.
I can deeply identify with these young children who work so hard, but still find it challenging to read. Since its inception, the project has become my passion. —Mariana Gillen Sanchez, Founder of M.A.R.I. Kit
The teen from Tampa was a Cadette in Girl Scouts then and she wanted the completion of her Silver Project to be a personal one. Looking within herself, she decided to start a project that would help kids like her who struggle with reading, and the M.A.R.I. Kit was born.
The M.A.R.I. Kits (Making Awesome Reading Improvement) launched in 2021. Each kit contains noise-cancelling headphones to help students concentrate on their studies, a word tile game, a whiteboard and dry erase marker, pencil grips, reading highlighter, and “Alphabet Wars” book. These are the same tools Mariana’s parents gave her to help her study.
“I can deeply identify with these young children who work so hard, but still find it challenging to read. Since its inception, the project has become my passion,” she wrote PBC Voice in an e-mail.
Inside the kit is a note that encourages every owner: “Dyslexia is our superpower. We learn differently and knowing the difference, we greatly impact how we face the various challenges in life that we will most certainly face.” The kits are donated to local schools to help young students read and learn.
The M.A.R.I. Kit symbolizes hope and inspiration for kids with dyslexia.
“One of the most heartwarming experiences was when I personally presented the M.A.R.I. Kits to children at a local elementary school,” shared Mariana. “Seeing their faces light up upon receiving the kits and realizing that these tools were meant to help them harness their ‘superpower’ was truly special.”
Seeing the impact these kits have on children, Mariana decided to continue with the initiative, taking part-time jobs to fund the kits.
She also urges other people to assemble a M.A.R.I. Kit for donation to schools. She provided a list on her social media page so individuals can buy the items themselves and give to a student who has dyslexia.
“If more people get involved, even if it’s just creating one kit and donating it to a local school, it can make a significant difference,” she said. “The collective effort of the community can amplify the impact and reach more children struggling with dyslexia.”
This wonderful teen believes that, “Every child has a unique way of understanding the world, and these differences should be celebrated. With the right tools and support, every child can thrive and harness their potential.”
Her mission has helped many kids and the M.A.R.I. Kits are now known in other countries as well. A book from Australia discusses the M.A.R.I. Kits and the challenges of dyslexia.
To know more about the M.A.R.I. Kits, click here.