by Rachel Black
Editorís Introduction: In this article, we hear about the valuable training experience gained at a NFB training center. Rachel Black shares her experiences, emotions, and her journey to independence. Here is what Rachel has to say about her time at the Colorado Center for the Blind.
"So, Rachel, what are your plans after you graduate?" I had been asked that question so many times before I had graduated from high school and I was tired of it. I already had goals for myself, and knew what I wanted to do. My goal was, and still is, to be a teacher of blind children. I am determined that nothing is going to stop me and I will persevere until my goal has been achieved. Yet, because I am blind, there are many people who did not, and still do not, believe that I can do what I dream of doing. They do not believe in the capabilities of blind people. One vision teacher said to me one day, "Rachel, I don't know how you're going to do it. I know you'll be a failure!" Needless to say, I had very low self-esteem because of this and similar other comments made to me. I'm sorry to say that I started to believe that I could not accomplish my goals and dreams.
Then, I had the good fortune of being introduced to members of the National Federation of the Blind. When I first came into contact with the organization, I was not immediately impressed. I did not like people telling me what to do, or at least that was my perception at the time. I already knew what I was going to do. I was going to attend the summer youth program at the Colorado Center for the Blind and then go on to a community college in the fall. The advice members gave me was great advice, but being the stubborn teenager that I am, I did not listen. One member recommended that I do a full-time program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. This was not my plan, so I did not want to even think about it. Looking back, I realize that this individual was right. I needed training in the skills of blindness. I have learned that it doesn't just take someone saying a blind person needs more training, but the blind person needs to discover that fact for him/herself. I, for one, am very glad I did.
It was almost three weeks before the summer program was to end, and I started thinking about my future. I realized that there was so much that I didn't know how to do. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I was going to go into the blindness field, but did not have the skills and confidence to teach other blind people, then I had no business considering teaching. I no longer wanted to limit myself. I wanted to gain the independence I needed to travel freely. I had a glimpse of freedom, and I wanted more of it badly!
I sat down with the director of the Colorado Center for the Blind and discussed the possibility of attending the Center as a full-time student in the Independence Training Program. She was excited that I wanted to attend and that very day we had a staffing to discuss this with my vocational rehabilitation counselor. Nine weeks later I was back!
I have now graduated from the Independence Training Program at the Center. Things were not easy for me, but by the time my program was over, I had gained the skills, and more importantly, the confidence to succeed. Now, as I pursue my post-secondary career in the area of elementary education at Arizona State University, I know that I have the skills, but most importantly, the belief in myself to succeed in my college endeavors.
I strongly believe in what the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the Colorado
Center for the Blind, BLIND, Incorporated,
and all Federationists around the country are doing. Let us all work together
(whether it be at work, at home, in our classrooms, or out in our communities)
to truly change what it means to be blind!!!
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