by Jo Ann Gustavson
Editor's Introduction: Life is full of many journeys, which lead us down the road to our most important goals. Jo Ann Gustavson is well on her way to achieving her dreams through working on her Masters of Library and Information Science at The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee as a non-traditional student. Although Jo Ann is fairly new to the NFB, she has come to the organization with much enthusiasm and a great deal to share with us about what it takes to make a dream a reality. Here is her encouraging story.
Everyone has dreams, and I believe that, if one works hard enough to make
them come true, they just might. I know that mine did.
Before I proceed with my story however, I would like to give you some background information. I am forty-one-years-old, and have been legally blind since the age of two when I contracted Spinal Meningitis. This disease damaged my Optic Nerve, and left me with just a little vision. For example, I can only read print when the book is really close to my face.
My first dream came true in 1980 when I graduated from my hometown high school. This had been my dream ever since I was little. For the first nine years of my schooling, I was bussed 90 miles round trip every day to a school that had special homeroom classes for the blind. But in my ninth grade year, I was not using any of their services. So I asked my parents if I could attend Kewaunee High School the following year. They, in turn, met with the school board, and it was settled. So I worked hard and graduated 47th out of a class of 132. That is pretty good considering that I was the very first blind student to attend KHS.
Now that my first dream had come true, I had to find another one. It was not hard. I set my sights on driving a car. I did not really think this would happen, but like I said one has to have dreams. This one ended up coming true as well. One day in November sometime during the 1990ís my girlfriend let me drive her car in the empty high school parking lot. She said it would be good for me to know where the pedals were and what to do just in case something happened to my driver. Of course, I was overjoyed, and that is putting it mildly.
We went to a parking lot in which there were no cars or people around. She moved into the passenger seat and I moved into the drivers seat. Just sitting there was a thrill. Then she told me put it in drive and push down on the gas pedal a little. Man! What a Feeling! I proceeded to drive around the parking lot for about fifteen minutes. Then she told me to try backing up. Thatís where it all ended. I just went in circles. That was the best day I had ever had in my life. Someone actually believed in me enough to let me drive her car. My own husband wonít even let me drive his car.
Then, in March of 2001, I had another dream come true. I had worked at Greenwood Elementary Library as a Library Aide for 9 years. While working there, I started working towards my B.S. degree in Library Science. By the time I earned this degree in 2000, my position at Greenwood had ended. But I had hopes of becoming the Director of the Neillsville Public Library. The library is only six blocks from my house, and therefore I would be able to walk to and from work. I had volunteered in the library during two summers. So I had some experience.
In the fall of 2000, the Director told me he was going to be leaving. So I watched for the ad in the paper. When it came out, I applied. I went through two interviews, and was hired in March of 2001. The Library Board knew me and knew that I would get the job done. I believe I was hired because of my education, experience and my ability to do the job successfully. I am very happy as Director. It is a lot of work, but it is what I have always wanted to do.
My current dream,
graduating with honors from the Masters of Library and Information Science
program at UW-Milwaukee, has not yet come true, but I am working very
hard to make sure it will. I am taking online classes, and hope to graduate
sometime in 2005.
I am not sure what my next dream will be. But I am sure I will come up with one before too long. I believe that if you set your mind to something, you will always find a way to accomplish it. This is the belief, which I hold onto as I continue my way through school and draw closer to reaching each of my own dreams.
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