Sep 3, 2013
12:51 PM
Education

NASCAR Bound Student at Forman School in Litchfield a Dyslexia Philanthropist, at 17

 

 When he arrived on the campus of Forman School in Litchfield, Conn., David Garbo Jr.’s whole perspective of education did a 180-degree turn.

Diagnosed with dyslexia and struggling with traditional ways of learning, Garbo, a resident of Stonington, Conn., found the innovative ways of comprehending class work at Forman exactly what he needed.

People talk about learning disabilities, but for me I never think of it as a disability, more of a challenge,” said Garbo, who is a junior this fall. “There were myself and maybe two other kids at my former school that were in the same situation, but when I got here everybody was the same. It’s no big deal. I just learn in a different way and it works for me.”

So, inspired by the Forman School and its groundbreaking and acclaimed work with children with dyslexia and other learning differences, Garbo decided to give back, even at the tender age of 17. A budding race star who drives for the Fathead Racing Team in Late Model Stock series, he established a foundation called The David Garbo, Jr. Foundation. He is donating all his winnings this race season, including a $1,650 purse he earned in the high profile Showdown in Richmond, Va., where he traded paint with elite drivers that included Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and teammate David Ragan, all NASCAR drivers.

“I work hard every day to strategize against my dyslexia and if I can help just one other student to get beyond the frustration of a reading disability I will feel like I’m helping out,” he said.

His foundation will offer another athletically gifted student with dyslexia the opportunity to build his or her skills in athletics and in the classroom. Garbo, an honors student, had raised more than $6,000 as of late summer and his goal is to provide a full scholarship to The Forman School.

Garbo, who began racing as an 8-year-old taking the turns at a junior track at Thompson Speedway in Thompson, Conn., is making some serious headway in 2013 toward his lofty goal of reaching NASCAR’s Nationwide and eventually Sprint Cup Series, the highest level of stock car racing.

He had three top-five finishes, including a first, second and fifth; was invited to participate in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, finishing sixth, the best for a rookie driver at the race, and was Rookie of the Race in two of three UARA Stars races he entered.

In 2012, he raced against cars and drivers considered to be formidable competitors. He traveled to Winter Heat road course events at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and was able to clinch the championship. Still competing as a Young Lion, Garbo conquered the series, racing in sun, rain and cold to demonstrate his ability to acclimate to weather and challenging racetrack conditions. Additionally, it was the first time he had competed at a non-oval, road-course track in a series and he embraced the experience.

In addition, last year he was the champion of the Legends Semi-Pro division in his first time in the series. He almost swept through the championship at the Winter Nationals at Auburndale Speedway in Winter Haven, Fla., with four wins, netting him the championship and a track record for the most wins during the annual event.

 

He also competed weekends at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway and various UARA series races in the South, as well as Saturday and Wednesday events at his local track in Waterford. Garbo ran the #8 Stanley Ford Fusion for Marcos Ambrose Motorsport of Concord, N.C. Supported by longtime sponsors Fidelity Paper and Garbo Lobster, he developed and tuned his late model skills under the mentorship of Marcos Ambrose and direct development of Jamie Yelton.

Said Ambrose, “It has been a rewarding experience to work with David. We expect big things from him in the future. Not only is he a real talent behind the wheel, he has shown great character for a young driver—maturity, determination and focus.”

“I started racing quarter midgets, which led to a real passion for racing,” he explained. “They have a track called The Little T at Thompson Speedway and I raced there for four years. Eventually I kept advancing up and I’m in Late Model Stock cars now. We can reach speeds of 170 miles an hour but we’re usually topping out at 130 miles an hour at most tracks. It’s a developmental level to get to the trucks, Nationwide and, hopefully, Sprint Cup races.”

Garbo races from May to late October; a demanding schedule of travel and competition that demands he take his studies on the road with him.

“It’s tough just being a teenager,” he said, “with all the stuff about growing up and things you have to learn. So, I look at it that a lot of kids aren’t anywhere near doing what I’m doing. It’s tough struggling with homework when I’m traveling and competing, but I haven’t missed one assignment during the time I’ve been away from Forman. I send everything back within two days of receiving it and, while it might not be 100 percent correct, my teachers know that I making every effort to complete my assignments. They know when I get back to school that I will pick up on what I need to know.”

Garbo said he has taken his learning methods at Forman and applied them to racing.

“I may look at a turn and see it in shapes and forms and devise a plan that way. It’s whatever works for me to get the job done.”

Garbo, who is also into snowboarding, BMX racing and dirt bikes, has received encouragement from his team’s owner, Yelton, and other drivers, many of them twice his age or more.

“There is only one other teenager in my series. A lot of young kids have their dreams crushed fast if they try and move up at too young an age. You have to commit yourself 100 percent to what you’re doing. I intend to take this is far as I can and be the best at what I do.”

He’s also received support from fellow students and friends at Forman School.

“My two best friends, Dan D’Amato and Will Remnick, along with my girlfriend, Mireille Pioppo, have been so supportive of my racing. They wish me luck when I go to a race and they aren’t bothering me about why I’m not at school and can’t hang out with them.”

He also credits his mother, Beth, and father, David, with making it all happen for him.

 

“My dad works his brains out to make sure I have the best equipment and money to be able to race and to attend Forman. My mom is my public relations person and creative manager. She makes sure that when I have meetings I’m on time and has done a great job with the website.”

Despite a blossoming career as a professional racer, Garbo has his priorities in line.

“The plans are to go to college because it is good to have a fallback in case things don’t work out the way you want in racing. You never know what will happen.”

For more information about David Garbo Jr., his racing and foundation, visit www.davidgarbojr.com. For more information about The Forman School, visit www.formanschool.org.

Editor's note: This story will appear in the autumn issue of a sister publication, Passport magazine, published by The Litchfield County Times.

NASCAR Bound Student at Forman School in Litchfield a Dyslexia Philanthropist, at 17

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