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Inspirational Influences

by Amber Chesser

Editor's Introduction: NABS is more than just an organization of college students, it can hold a place of great importance in the lives of high school students as well. This truth is brought to life in this article by Amber Chesser, who describes her involvement in the NFB through a description of her first time in a college class. Amber wrote this article while still a senior in high school. She has since graduated, a semester early, and is now a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. This fall she will be attending Louisiana Tech University where she plans to study Psychology. Here is what Amber has to say about her first college experience.

I have been involved with the National Federation of the Blind since I was young, but as I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate the organization more with each year. This appreciation is particularly true when it comes to my life as a student. As I near the end of my high school career and also begin my college career at the same time, I have found the advice of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) invaluable to my success in my first college class.

A clear example of the influence of these organizations is reflected in my decision to take a college class during my senior year of high school. Because of the confidence that I have felt through the NABS philosophy, I was able to step away from my teachers at school and do everything necessary in preparation for the college class independently. In taking all of the responsibility for this class, I had a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. I do not know if I would have taken the initiative so quickly if I had not had the encouragement of both blind and sighted supporters.

I found both the NABS e-mail listserve and individual NABS members to be excellent resources while searching for my textbooks. They were able to share their personal experiences with finding books in electronic formats and also with using services such as Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFBD). Another area in which my blind peers were extremely helpful was in teaching me the proper use of readers. This semester was my first experience with advertising for readers, interviewing potential candidates, and hiring readers. With so many experienced and accomplished students on the NABS internet list, I was comforted to know that I could submit any question, large or small, and have it answered by people with many different views on the situation. At first, my experience with a reader seemed ideal. The student I hired had an excellent reading voice, was prompt, and seemed to enjoy the work as well as appreciate the extra money she was receiving. However, I was forced to fire my first reader after several months. I had heard students speak of doing this, though, and I felt prepared to do it myself. I realized that it was not unusual to fire a reader, and I am thankful that I have had that experience.

To most sighted students, the act of going to class is nothing special. However, I try to be aware that each class may also become an opportunity to educate professors or peers about blindness. I must credit the National Federation of the Blind for giving me this awareness and for making me realize the importance of educating others. The federation has given me the confidence that I need to interact with professors and students and feel comfortable in any situation. I look forward to continuing my academic journey and my professional career with the support and friendship of the federation.

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