Ivy Wollberg can attest to the accuracy of the well-known phrase “hard work pays off.”

The 22-year-old Concordia University Ann Arbor criminal justice major had an uphill route leading to the commencement stage, but she did not let her circumstances hold her back.

Wollberg has dyslexia, a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. While it does not affect general intelligence, dyslexia certainly made it difficult for her to complete assignments with the same ease as most others.

“Dyslexia has been a battle of mine since I was a kid,” said Wollberg. “It makes you feel insecure when you struggle to read, like you aren’t as smart as everyone else.”

Wollberg was an ‘army brat’ in her adolescence, moving from city to city with her parents and three older siblings. She had no interest in reading and often fought having to do so, frustrated that she did not catch on to the skill in the same excellent manor as her siblings had.

“It wasn’t until sixth grade when we moved to Connecticut that the resource center at our new school diagnosed me with dyslexia,” said Wollberg. After that, Wollberg was able have tests read to her aloud and listened to audio books to complete homework assignments.

“When I came to college, I was going to be reading and writing significantly more than I ever had in high school,” she said. “I had to make a choice. The choice was to either settle for complacency and not do well, or work harder than I ever have had to before in my life and hopefully see my work pay off in the end.”

Wollberg chose the latter, making the dean’s list most semesters of her college career.

Wollberg also has completed a volunteer internship at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, this past semester. She was nominated by a School of Business criminal justice professor to teach a relationship class to inmates, equipping them with behavioral management and interpersonal skills as a part of a reentry program for inmates nearing release.

Wollberg said she loved working one-on-one with the inmates, preparing them for life outside of prison and supporting their determination to enhance their lives and overcome obstacles.

“We’ll often clump inmates together, cumulatively calling them ‘bad people,’” said Wollberg. “Through this internship I was able to take the time to get to know them individually, and I learned that many of them made a mistake that they really wish they could take back, but they can’t. Now they are working hard on self-improvement and hoping to make up for lost time with their families.”

With her criminal justice degree, Wollberg plans to pursue job options in the field after moving to Lake Elcinor, California in July. She will be moving with her husband, Josh, after their wedding in June for Jake’s vicarage placement at First Lutheran Church in Lake Elcinor.

“Concordia has given me an awesome foundation through tackling challenges, supportive professors and mentorship, and unique experiences in my field of study,” said Wollberg. “I have a lot of exciting things in front of me, as well as some uncertainty, but I feel prepared.”

— Rachel Thoms served on Concordia University's Strategic Communications team from 2015-2022. Any inquiries about this story can be sent to news@cuaa.edu.

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