Interview with Cristina Bequer – Miss California Hopeful! Please Listen, Read, and Share!

Hi, I’m Dr. Marianne Cintron, founder of Step By Step Dyslexia Solutions. I’m so glad you joined us today! Welcome to dyslexia solutions! This is a program where we interview adults that have dyslexia, parents of dyslexic children, and also teachers of dyslexic children.

The purpose of this podcast is to empower you with knowledge, to inform you about current situations in the world regarding dyslexia, and we’re also looking for sponsors.  We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization and we write grants to help pay the tuition for tutors. Also to help pay the tuition for students to receive the intervention.

I equip heroic teachers and parents with an effective literacy program to remediate dyslexia so we can close the achievement gap, stop the school to prison pipeline, and prepare our kids for success in school and in life!

I’m an author, a curriculum developer, and an app developer. I’m also a podcast host.

I’m so excited to introduce to you a very special guest. This is a young lady I just met at the International Dyslexia meeting that we had for Dyslexia Awareness Month in October. Cristina won the title of Miss Yosemite and now she’s the contestant for Miss California.

She received her BS in Animal Science and is looking to go to school to be a veterinarian. I’m so excited for you to meet my special guest today, Christina Bequer, (pronounced Becker).

Hi everyone, it’s so great to have you tonight, and thank you so much for having me.

I want to start with you sharing with the audience a little bit about your background before I get into my questions.

My name is Christina Becker. I’m a local titleholder with the Miss America organization.

I am Miss Yosemite Valley and I have the honor of competing for the title of Miss California this upcoming June.  A little bit more about myself is that I am an advocate for those with dyslexia. It is something that I’m extremely passionate about because I’m also a dyslexic myself. Then in my free time, I love to play with the piano, I love to draw and paint.

I’m currently working at the University of California Davis Veterinary teaching hospital in the emergency room. It’s very rewarding and it’s allowed me to learn so much about the veterinary field in itself. and it’s just something that I’m excited to pursue and currently, I’m applying to vet school.

I am waiting to hear back from schools and see where I’ll end up.

Marianne said, “I’m sure you’ll get in and with you working right now that’s going to help you. I’m going to ask you a big favor. I’m going to start the program with you showing your sash and showing your crown because I know you worked so hard for those and they’re very special.”

Cristina replied, ” This is my sash. Miss Yosemite Valley with the Miss America Organization and then my crown. We each get a crown to wear throughout the year. It’s very shiny and allows everyone to kind of stop and identify us. It’s also really fun when I go into children’s hospitals or when I go into schools because kids instantly have your attention.  It’s an attention-getter!”

Marianne said, “Yes! I’m also going to put a plug-in that I was a pageant mom when my daughter won the Little Miss San Dimas contest when she was 10 years old and now she’s 27. (2005) That was quite a while ago but I know it’s a lot of hard work. You can be a beautiful woman inside and outside. Thanks, Christina”

Cristina replied, “Thank you.”

Marianne asks,” The first question I’m going to ask you is what got it what got you speaking about dyslexia?”

Cristina – “I wanted to change the stigma about what it was like to have a learning disability. It does not affect my intelligence and it does not mean that I’m stupid. For a lot of my childhood, I honestly believed that I was not smart and that I would just have to work extremely hard to do well in school. But it wasn’t until I started speaking about having dyslexia that I realized how important it was to tell others about my journey with my neurodiversity.   I was actually at a local pageant and I went on stage to introduce myself and I was explaining that my social impact initiative was destigmatizing dyslexia.

Each local pageant has a young princess program that’s a non-competitive program for girls ages 4-12 to learn about etiquette, speaking skills, and have a friendship with a big sister contestant. Once the show was over, a young princess came up to me with her mom and her mom tells me that her daughter was recently diagnosed with dyslexia and that she would love to be able to talk to me about what it was like to have it.

We instantly connected when she asked me if the school is always going to be this hard for her? That statement just broke my heart because I saw my younger self and her.  I told her that school can be challenging for a lot of people but it is not going to be impossible. And, that she’s lucky because she learned about her superpower of dyslexia a lot earlier than I did! That’s going to help her see the world in a very unique way and cause her to be more successful than her peers.

Even though I didn’t learn about mine until I was older I still told her that I was still able to get through school graduate from university. I’m now applying to veterinary school. It’s interactions like this that are so important because it shows kids that there’s someone out there like them.

Marianne says,  “I love how you call it a superpower because we want to let parents know that we weren’t born with a reading brain like we were to see and hear. Reading is a man-made thing. We were created with all the parts of the brain to connect to read but we need to teach reading.  We want to help build those kids’ self-esteem when they’re young and start an early intervention.

Also, you said you have some musical interests. Do you want to expound on those a little bit? Show us your creative strengths?”

Cristina replied, ” Yeah, creative strengths are the way that I view the world. I think outside of the box. I will approach situations even at work that are different from the way that my co-worker might. I’m going to come up with an extremely creative solution that no one’s thought of yet. It’s brilliant in some ways.”

“Can you give us an example of that?”

“Yeah, so there was one time that we had a tool that we were using for surgery, and for whatever reason, we had to put in a long pipe almost like a PVC pipe. because Working with cows, all the equipment is very large. So think of a PVC pipe and so there was a bristle brush that you had to put into the PVC pipe to clean it out. There was something stuck in the PVC pipe and so where you would put the PVC the actual pipe cleaner up into the PVC pipe it would not feed.

“So everyone was sitting there and the doctor was getting frustrated and I piped up from the back and said ‘well if it’s not going up why don’t you stick it down the opposite direction and push it down and then it’ll it should feed and push out whatever stuck in it?’

“That worked perfectly.   They were saying, “that was so smart! why didn’t we think of that?”

“Sometimes you just need a different creative brain to figure out a solution to a problem.”

” What a wonderful example!”

“Yeah but in addition to that, it’s also helped me connect to people because I find that a lot of dyslexics are very empathetic people because we’ve had to struggle so much with so much so many things that we really can relate to those that are struggling.  Even if it’s not an identical struggle to something that we’ve gone through.  I  feel like that’s a very big strength of mine.”

” That’s great and I heard that even today someone was saying that her husband is dyslexic and that’s what it developed –  empathy in him and compassion for others. Let me ask you,  how does the Miss America Organization allow you to advocate for dyslexia?”

“The Miss America Organization is the perfect partner for advocating for dyslexia because throughout our service, as a titleholder, we get to pick an organization or a topic that we’re passionate about. And then we’re allowed to advocate about. They have me go to schools throughout the state of California.

“I’ve been able to speak to principals and advocate on social media,  speak with teachers.  You can follow me at Miss Yosemite valley for social media posts but it’s also allowed me to partner with larger national dyslexia organizations to be able to make an even larger impact throughout the state of California.

” So these partnerships include different branches of the International Dyslexia Association.”

“Which is how we met you.”

“Adults and hopefully so many more.”

“Yeah that’s great and I hope people who are watching this if they have organizations addressing dyslexia they’ll reach out to you as well and give you a lot of exposure. We love that you mentioned that you were diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult. How was your childhood and what did you do to compensate for your dyslexia?  How did you get support during school ?”

“Well, I found out that I had dyslexia in college and I just always thought through elementary school and grade school that I was just a terrible speller.  Math was just difficult for me and directions were a nightmare! But it has taught me throughout my childhood to be innovative, creative, resilient, and determined because, throughout school, I would figure out different methods that worked for me.

“It allowed me to not only succeed eventually in the classroom but also succeed in life and I didn’t figure out like I said that I was dyslexic until college.  I was using different coping mechanisms that I didn’t realize were coping mechanisms!

“We were on the quarter system and so all of those classroom times and test exam times are very short they’re about 15 minutes long.  I was running out of time when I was taking my exam, so what I would do is make a friend in every class that I was in.  And when it came to the exam I would have them sit a couple of rows in front of me, not so that I could cheat off of them, but so that I could have them be very dramatic in turning the pages. So that way I was able to keep up with them,  engage them, and essentially use them as my pacer.

“When the teacher would ‘say oh you’ve got five minutes left’ I’d say okay, now we’re guessing that method didn’t work!

“This was a strategy.

“When you were how old?”

“I was 20. Okay so as an adult?

“Yeah, so as an adult I was using that method because I was just running out of time. It wasn’t until I wasn’t getting good grades and I was extremely frustrated and was talking to one of my friends. I was explaining this method and said ‘well it’s just not working for me.

She looked at me so horrified and said this is not how you should be taking the exam!” Clearly, you don’t know the information!

“I said no I know the information. Test me on it right now. Let’s go over it. I can explain everything to you. They said this makes zero sense. You can do that so you need to go and get more time!

“You need to go to the disability services and when I did that I went to the counselor instantly. I told her all of my problems, all of the things I’d struggled with, and instantly was your classic dyslexic! So then I was able to go and get tested and then receive accommodations.  And after I received accommodations, oh my gosh my world changed!

“Well it’s really important that you’re bringing that up because we put a lot of emphasis on elementary school and early intervention, but I also write blogs and have you tubes related to talking to adults about dyslexia as an adult.  And those wanting to go to college, wondering if they should they go to college, and can they go to college?  I talk about how they need to be assessed so they can get those accommodations and they can be successful!”

“Yes because it the accommodations are not to put you ahead of your peers there to catch you up to your peers –  so it levels the playing field so that you are starting at the same point as your peers.

“Just because it takes me a little bit of extra time to process a question or to double-check my numbers, to make sure that I don’t have anything flipped, does not mean that I’m not intelligent.”

” Well, that’s really exciting. We’re going to wrap it up here and I want to ask you,  what would your closing statement be and how can people reach you so we can support you for Miss California?

“My closing statement would be if you have dyslexia you are intelligent. You are capable and you are intelligent. There is so much that you can do so don’t be afraid to start talking about having it.  It’s really important to show others that they are normal and once you get that conversation going, you realize how normal so many of these things are.  So if you know someone who is dyslexic in your life and they would like to speak to me, or if you’re a parent and you would love for me to go into your child’s classroom, and tell their classroom about dyslexia, please reach out to me. I’m at Miss Yosemite Valley on Instagram and Facebook. If you’re just interested in what I’m doing any of the legislatures that I’m working on because I live here in Sacramento, or anything else that I’m doing, please please please follow me.  I greatly appreciate it.”

“Will you put your crown on again and show us your sash in case people tuned in a little late? Sure they can watch from the beginning. Go ahead and put it all on.”

“Yeah, that would be so exciting.”

“Yay, Cristina from Miss California Organization, we want to help you get there. I want to thank you Cristina for being our special guest today and I want to thank the audience for tuning in. If what we have shared has inspired you, please go to our website. Consider donating to help us keep the message going forward. Remember we’re a non-profit organization and we are looking for sponsors. We want to get sponsors for the tuition of adult tutors and to help with tuition costs for the children. And like I said in the beginning, we write grants to help accomplish this but grant writers want to see community involvement. So we look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at dyslexia – solutions.com and I’m also on Facebook with dyslexia solutions. I want to thank you all for being here today and may you have a blessed week! Bye now!”