Seven South Mississippi educators receive dyslexia therapy training through Velkas Grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation

GULFPORT, MS (June 4, 2024) – Seven South Mississippi educators are receiving training in dyslexia therapy thanks to a $9,500 grant recently awarded to Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia in Ocean Springs. The grant was awarded from the John T. and Lois R. “Sonny” Velkas Child Welfare Fund, a fund of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

North Woolmarket Elementary educators Cassy Haydis, Crystal Naron and Stephanie Beauchamp hold master’s degrees in education and are pursuing certification as Certified Academic Language Therapists (CALT). In April, they completed 250 classroom hours of instruction in dyslexia remediation with Lighthouse instructors, the first milestone in achieving certification. The classes were provided in partnership with the Dyslexia Resource Center of Baton Rouge. Under the supervision of a CALT-QI (Qualified Instructor), they are currently completing the required 700 hours of dyslexia therapy with students. Once complete, they will sit for the National Academic Language Therapy (ALTA) Exam.

The Velkas Grant is also helping Lighthouse support alternative-route teacher certification expenses for Hancock County resident Wendy Luscy and with training expenses for Harrison County resident Amber Thibodeaux. Both are instructors at Lighthouse. Luscy holds a master’s degree in dyslexia therapy from William Carey University. Thibodeaux, who has an education specialist degree in dyslexia therapy, is working to complete practicum hours.

“I am so proud of these teachers and their commitment to understanding reading science and its impact on dyslexic learners,” said Traci Barrientos, Lighthouse executive director. “If we are going to truly impact child welfare, we must address literacy, especially access to programs for those who are most vulnerable. We must also help educators identify dyslexic students by supporting and empowering our public-school educators.”

The Velkas Grant is also making it possible for Barrientos (CALT) and Lauren Houston (CALT), Lighthouse principal and dyslexia therapist, to complete the lecture competency and classroom instruction portion of their QI certification. They are providing oversight and feedback of practicum hours to those in training, the second part of the certification process. They will complete the final portion of certification in June, putting them in the ranks of less than 200 individuals across the nation with the distinct qualifications to oversee dyslexia therapy instructor training through the Academic Language Therapy Association.

For more information on both educator training and becoming an Academic Language Therapist, email Kayla Reggio (CALT-QI), dyslexia therapist at the Academy, at For more information about grants, donating to an existing fund, or creating a new fund at GCCF, email or call 228.897.4841.

PHOTO 1: From left are Kayla Reggio, dyslexia therapist at Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia in Ocean Springs; Lauren Houston, Lighthouse principal and dyslexia therapist; Cassandra Haydis, Stephanie Beauchamp and Crystal Naron, North Woolmarket Elementary educators; and Traci Barrientos, Lighthouse executive director.

PHOTO 2: Wendy Luscy, an instructor at Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia in Ocean Springs, with several of her students.

PHOTO 3: Amber Thibodeaux, an instructor at Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia in Ocean Springs, with several of her students.

About Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia
Studies show that while 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, only 17 percent of teachers can identify the characteristics of dyslexia in the classroom, and even fewer are confident they can deliver the necessary instruction to help students overcome this reading disability; consequently, less than 4% of those with dyslexia are identified or diagnosed. Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia was created to stand in the gap and push against the effects of unremediated dyslexia by creating a multifaceted 501c3, which includes training partnerships for teachers who seek to serve bright students who struggle to read, write, and spell. The Academy is in its second year of training educators. This partnership includes educators from Hancock, Harrison, Jackson and Stone counties. Additionally, it requires 200 hours of coursework and a 700-hour clinical practicum, which can result in certification as a nationally recognized Academic Language Therapist (CALT) upon passing the national ALTA exam. With highly trained educators, life-changing intervention is possible for those who struggle. To learn more about Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia and the vital work they do, visit their website at

About Gulf Coast Community Foundation
Gulf Coast Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity that has been serving the people of South Mississippi since 1989. GCCF’s primary mission is to increase philanthropy by assisting donors in establishing endowments and legacy giving plans, making grants to worthy causes, and providing leadership in response to the community’s changing needs. Over the years, GCCF has been a leader in addressing the most pressing needs in the community, from disaster relief and recovery to supporting education and child welfare initiatives. To learn more about GCCF and the important work it does in the community, please visit

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