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Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)
By Mary Sefzik, Student, Garland, Texas
Abstract: A young lady who is blind shares her experiences with her first job in the mountains of Glorieta, New Mexico.
Key Words: Family, blind, deafblind, summer work, independent living skills
Editor's Note: Mary is a twenty-one-year-old college student from Garland, Texas. She has been totally blind since birth due to retinopathy of prematurity. She attended public school from kindergarten through 12th grade and completed two years at Eastfield Community College in Mesquite. Mary was honored to receive a scholarship from TAER this past spring and was Student of the Year in 2002. This fall she will be attending Texas A&M University in Commerce where she hopes to major in speech communication with a minor in music.
I arrived in Glorieta with many unanswered questions… would I be able to do the tasks that were expected of me? Would the other workers accept me and treat me as an equal? How would I get from place to place on the big confusing campus?
I spent six weeks of my summer working on the college summer staff at Lifeway Conference Center in Glorieta, New Mexico. My specific assignment was singing and reading stories to children in preschool (birth to age 5) and day camp (grades 1-6). I also went on hikes and helped out where I could. I decided to include a question and answer time about Braille and blindness for the school-age children. This was my first daily job and it taught me so many things! It is amazing and wonderful how all the pieces of the puzzle came into place to make for a wonderful summer experience! I had many new experiences on and off the job and each one taught me a little something more about myself and my capabilities.
My first experience living in an apartment with a roommate taught me that I could manage things on my own. I couldn't have asked for a better first roommate! She accepted my blindness right away, and we shared many good laughs and late night talks.
Thanks to my roommate, I also had my first experience behind the wheel of a car! We were driving home from church one Sunday, and I made the off-handed remark that if I could see, one thing I would love to do was drive a car. Several minutes later she surprised me by saying, "Get out of the car. We're in the dining hall parking lot, and you're going to drive!" She explained to me how the pedals worked, and I took my shoes off so that I could get a better feel for things. My roommate helped me steer, of course, but I got to get a good feel for how everything works. Even though blind people aren't able to drive, I think they should still have an opportunity to sit in the driver's seat and experience it firsthand.
My first whitewater rafting trip showed me the fun and rewards of trying something new and a little challenging. My experience on the 40-foot-high ropes course taught me to trust my coworkers and served as a great icebreaker! It showed my coworkers that even though I couldn't see, I was still willing to try new things.
I was nervous about working with the children at first, but quickly learned that they loved what I had to share and genuinely wanted to learn from me. I especially appreciated the hugs at the end of the week and one day camp group's insistence upon giving me a bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream … even though it was half melted! After a long work week, my first paycheck allowed me to reap the rewards of a job well done!
I'm not the only one who learned from this experience, though. My fellow day camp and pre-school workers probably learned more than they ever wanted to know about a blind person, thanks to the many questions that the kids asked! Sometimes after answering a question, I'd hear a response from one of the workers like "Wow! I'd never thought of that before!" I think I had an impact on the kids, too. Some of them asked very well thought-out questions and others brought their parents over to meet me. My boss, who was very apprehensive at first, told me that she had received nothing but good reports about me.
On the days when I was weary after answering the same question for the hundredth time or when I felt that there was nothing that I could do to help, I thought of the many good things that I had been blessed with… wonderful coworkers who accepted me for who I was, and a beautiful cool place to work away from the Texas heat! I was reminded that even though I couldn't see it at the time, I was truly making a difference and that is the best thing that any of us could hope to do!
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