Hannah Kovach ’13 was raised in a traditional Catholic family, where she started reading the Bible at age eight. She found herself drawn to Saint Mary’s because of her strong Catholic faith and the school’s rigorous academic standards. She even turned down Stanford University for the opportunity to attend Saint Mary’s, where she was given a Presidential Scholarship.

But Kovach’s story is not typical. She was diagnosed with hyperlexia at the age of five. The neurological disorder is associated with social difficulties and auditory learning problems, as well as strong analytical and reading skills. But that diagnosis hasn’t slowed her down.

Kovach is a senior at Saint Mary’s, double majoring in math and music, and is on track to graduate Summa Cum Laude this spring. Despite her daily challenges, Kovach doesn’t want to be defined by her disability.

“I want to be the awesome person who just happens to have hyperlexia,” she said.

In addition to her academic achievements, Kovach sings at Mass every week, and is active in her dorm and in the College community. She is also the president of the pro-life student group, the Respect Life Club.

Hanna Kovach '13She said that her hyperlexia can make it difficult to empathize with other people, but her enduring religious beliefs have helped her better understand other people’s points of view.

“My faith gives me a high set of standards,” she said.

While Saint Mary’s curriculum presents rewarding challenges for her every day, she also feels a sense of comfort and belonging as she walks across the campus.

“I feel very much at home here,” she said.

“I don’t think that I would have felt that way at a school without a Catholic tradition.”

Kovach plans to pursue a career as an opera singer or a mathematician, and wants to develop both her interests.

“I want to show that people with disabilities can achieve great things.”

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