Who We Are

Empowerment Lab is an after-school center for middle school and high school students with diagnosed language-based learning differences (like dyslexia and ADHD) to find their community and raise self-esteem.

Research shows that students who become disengaged from school dropout at alarming rates, become involved with the criminal justice system at higher rates than their peers, and experience negative life outcomes. Many LD youth are not enrolled in extracurricular activities because they are involved in extra homework help and remedial work after school. They are also often missing the “extras” in school, like PE, Art and Music because teachers keep them in the classroom to finish their work.

The Empowerment Lab exists to provide LD youth with options that can lead to positive life outcomes, through mentorship and exposure to activities that could spark their curiosities. By teaching social-emotional skills, such as self-advocacy, relationship skills, and self-awareness, among others, the Empowerment Lab aims to empower youth with learning differences in all aspects of their lives, thereby re-engaging them in the educational process.

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The center’s activities incorporate: gross motor sports, visual and performing arts, video gaming, and music, to name a few. Anything a participant can dream up, we can make happen.

The space is constantly evolving and changing to meet the needs of the participants. This is accomplished with movable walls, and a core group of high school aged advisors with LD. A group mentoring model is also utilized, which consists of staffing the center with mentors with the same diagnosis as the participants, using a 5:1 ratio.

Space is currently being considered in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. The hope is that communities from about an hour’s radius from this area will be served.

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Elizabeth O'Heaney, EdD.

Elizabeth has a doctorate in education, focusing on the social-emotional growth of students with language-based learning differences such as dyslexia and ADHD. She has served on the board of Eye to Eye since 2007. Eye to Eye is a national mentoring organization that pairs college and high school students diagnosed with learning disabilities, with middle school students with similar labels. Elizabeth resides with her husband, Bill, and their daughter, Elle, in northwestern Connecticut.

Bill O’Heaney, M.Ed., MPA, LPC

Bill has Masters degrees in mental health counseling, as well as public administration, specializing in nonprofit management. He has experience running nonprofits, with a specialty in job training and placement. Bill is also a licensed professional mental health counselor who has worked in a variety of settings and clinics, specializing in substance and alcohol abuse. His work also includes specialties with adolescents. Bill currently works at a school for children with learning differences such as dyslexia and ADHD. He is married to Elizabeth and they reside with their daughter, Elle, in Northwestern Connecticut.