I Am Nelson #iBeatTheOdds

When I walked across that stage on May 9, 2014, it was the best feeling in the world. I finally made it to the proverbial mountain top! With the achievement came a obligation to give back to youth who shared a similar story.

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Illustrations by Imagine That! Design; Photo edit by Your Baby Photography

My name is Ronnie Nelson Sidney, II, MSW and I am Nelson. I authored and published Nelson Beats The Odds in August of 2015.In the book *spoiler alert* Nelson delivers a graduation speech at the end of the book. I didn’t give a speech at my graduation but I included the image to show how far Nelson had come.

I graduated with my Master of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in August of 2014. I was proud of myself because I earned a 3.5 GPA in one of the top ranked social work programs in the country. I was on top of the world! While I was celebrating I thought about the times when I felt like I was at the bottom of the world. I was a struggling learner K-12, spending seven years in special education and remediation. I was diagnosed with ADHD and a Learning Disability which only made me feel stigmatized and resentful. After reflecting on those painful experiences I thought it was important for me to share them in my book.

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Illustrations by Imagine That! Design; Photo edit by Your Baby Photography

In school all I wanted to was to spend time with my friends and have the opportunity to take the classes they were taking. Despite struggling academically my dream was to graduate from college. I finished high school with a 1.8 GPA which limited my college options. I decided to enroll in Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA. I made the Dean’s List my second semester and transferred to Old Dominion University. I refused to tell either school that I had an IEP because I wanted to prove that I could do it all by myself. See, I never believed that I was learning disabled and my mission was to prove everyone wrong that did.

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I graduated from ODU in 2006 with my Bachelors of Science in Human Services. I immediately went to work in the counseling field as an Adolescent and Substance Abuse Counselor. I didn’t decide to go back to school until 2011. I put my master’s degree off because in the back of my mind I didn’t think I could do it. In 2011 I stepped out on faith, left my job and moved to Richmond, VA. While I was enrolled in the VCU School of Social Work MSW program I  was unemployed; had my first child; moved three times; and, worked full time at a prison. My plate was full but I was determined to beat the odds.

Illustrations by Imagine That! Design; Photo edit by Your Baby Photography

The odds seemed stacked against me when I looked at my MSW course curriculum and saw that it required three research classes. My anxiety was through the roof on the first day of Foundations of Research in Social Work Practice. My professor Dr. Nicole Lee, Assistant professor in teaching, eased my anxiety and transformed the way I look at research. She turned boring statistics into opportunities fund projects and guide practice. A lot of what I learned from Dr. Lee’s class helped provide the quantitative and qualitative framework for Nelson Beats The Odds and my upcoming book Tameka’s New Dress. Dr. Lee has been one of my biggest supporters and mentors. She held a Zumba Dance Party fundraiser for my book.

Dr. Nicki Lee and three Zumba Dance Instructors at the Nelson Beats The Odds Event


When I walked across that stage on May 9, 2014, it was the best feeling in the world. I finally made it to the top of the proverbial mountain! With the achievement came a obligation to give back to  youth who shared a similar story. I  began writing the manuscript for my book after I reconnected with my Special Education teacher Mrs. Tobey. I held a ceremony to honor my former teachers  at Essex High School in Tappahannock, Virginia. Mrs. Tobey told me to share my story so I used the internet to search for self-publishing tips. My illustrator, Imagine That! Design contacted me after they read my proposal on the website called Elance. In the message Kurt Keller mentioned he was diagnosed with dyslexia and received special education services. Perfect! I was at ease sharing my story with him because I knew he could relate. I told him and his wife Traci that my goal is to inspire struggling learners or children experiencing adverse childhood experiences to beat the odds. Nelson Beats the Odds has eclipsed my expectations by becoming an Amazon best-seller, and more importantly, a tool that parents and educators can use to help struggling students.

Author: Ronnie Sidney II, MSW

Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW, is a father, therapist, author, app developer, professional speaker, philanthropist and entrepreneur. He received a Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. Ronnie was raised in Tappahannock, Virginia, and attended Essex County Public Schools (ECPS). While attending ECPS, he spent several years in Special Education after being diagnosed with a learning disability. The stigmatization of special education created a lack of interest in school. With limited options regarding four-year colleges, he decided to enroll in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia. The following year, he transferred to Old Dominion University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services in 2006. Sidney has since published two books, "Nelson Beats the Odds" and "Tameka's New Dress". He also developed the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator.

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