MU H.E.L.P. center appoints new director
HUNTINGTON -- The Marshall University Higher Education for Learning Problems Center has a new director, but she has a familiar face.
Debbie Painter, who has been with the H.E.L.P. Center for 24 years and served as interim director since January 2013, is now the fourth director in the program's history.
Painter received two degrees from Marshall, completing a bachelor's in elementary education 1-6 and early education N-K in 1990 and earning a master's in special education and learning disabilities in 1993.
Painter began tutoring for the H.E.L.P. Center in 1991 as a graduate assistant, and in 1992 became a diagnostician. She became the coordinator of diagnostics in 1995. In July 2012, Painter was appointed assistant director of H.E.L.P. to supervise the college program.
Located in Myers Hall at 520 18th Street, the H.E.L.P. Center is a fee-based comprehensive support program for individuals diagnosed with specific learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The center services 200 students and saw 28 students graduate from Marshall during the 2013-14 school year and a third of the students earned a G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher.
Painter said she misses her direct involvement in diagnostic testing, but her favorite part of working at the center is that every day is different.
"Even though you might line up five people with a reading disability, their disabilities are all different," Painter said. "They have such strengths in other areas, but they may have a reading, math or written language disability. The reward is seeing them be successful. Seeing the young kids come in and be able to read. Or seeing the college student pass classes that are very difficult for them."
Painter said she tries to tell students that if they are diagnosed with a learning disability, it isn't going to hold them back.
"I think if we say learning differences, it takes the stigma away that there is a problem," Painter said. "Everyone learns differently. Some people just have more trouble than others."
The nationally acclaimed H.E.L.P. center began working with undergraduate students at Marshall in 1981 under the direction of Barbara Guyer, and today addresses areas of academic need through six different divisions, working with individuals from ages 5 to adult.
Painter said she credits where she is today to Guyer.
"It was her leadership and her guidance building this program," Painter said. "Most of the staff (here) now she hired. Some of us have been here for our entire careers. She's a wonderful person and it was her vision that created this program. I'm very thankful for her."
Diane Williams, coordinator of student affairs and special projects at H.E.L.P., said Painter is leading the center in a good direction for the future.
"No matter what is going on, she has a smile on her face," Williams said. "She works consistently to get the job done in all areas. We couldn't have a better director."
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