by Kimberly Aguillard
EDITORíS NOTE: Kimberly Aguillard is the Secretary of the Texas Association of Blind Students.
I could feel my face turning various shades of pink and then a deep red as I was seated at a table in our school cafeteria.† Ballots were being passed out for Homecoming Court, and for at least the seven hundredth time, I promised my friend Andrea through clenched teeth that I would get even with her in some horrible way for putting my name on the nomination list.† I was coping with the embarrassment as coolly as possible, cracking jokes about my name being on the ballot.† We were instructed to circle only three names out of the thirty or so listed.† Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the ballots were taken up and, much to our disappointment, we were ordered to return to class.† Several friends rushed up and enthusiastically assured me that I had gotten their votes.† This little humiliation was pushed out of my mind until several weeks later.† This sounds like a normal incident of a normal teenager's life.† That is exactly what it is.† I am a sixteen-year-old and I go through a wide range of emotions about every twenty minutes, just as other teens do.† What makes me a little different is that I am blind.† I have been what professionals call "legally blind" my whole life.† When I was nine, I had several surgeries that resulted in the loss of whatever sight I did have.
I am the second oldest of five children and my parents have never treated me differently than any of my siblings.† I credit that fact for making me down to earth and typical.† My parents knew that I might have to try different ways to perform tasks, but the tasks still had to be done.† So, we would brainstorm and find a way for me to do them.† I am grateful for their unwavering confidence in me.† They always knew what I needed and they searched for answers.† This searching led us to the National Federation of the Blind and the Louisiana Center for the Blind.†
I attended the center's summer program for children, unwillingly, when I was twelve.† In the Buddy Program, I learned an enormous amount about myself and blindness.† I was a different person when I returned.† I had confidence in my skills and I had a desire for independence that I really didn't have before.† This was the point in my life when the box of potential inside of me was unlocked.† I looked at problems as challenges, not insurmountable obstacles.† I returned one more time to the Buddy Program.† Later, I attended the center's Summer Training Employment Program (STEP).† Each time, I learned a lot more then I bargained for!
I was challenged again and again to set higher goals and to achieve them.† I feel certain that if my parents and the NFB had not pushed me to achieve my goals and follow my dreams, I would not have the accomplishments that I do.† If I didn't have good cane skills, it would take away from my fun in social situations, like dances or parties.† I could never keep up with my friends' break-neck pace in the mall or at school.†
Perhaps most importantly, if I didn't have skills and instead was always worrying about how to get from point A to point B, I would never feel comfortable enough to be myself.† I am an outgoing person.† I love to meet new people and mingle.† I love to go to parties and to shop for clothes with friends.† The only thing that may hold me back is a shortage of cash, a problem which is common to most teenagers.† I am very involved in clubs and organizations at school.† One of the jobs of Student Council is to make a float for our Homecoming Parade each year.† At first, I was uncertain about what I could do to help.† There were people everywhere and the scene was pretty chaotic.†
Six years ago, I would have sat in the corner, feeling awkward, until someone pulled me out and brought me into the group.†† But now, I knew all I had to do was find a thing that needed to be done and figure out how I could do it.† So, I took charge of the situation and found some things to do.† I helped cut the tissue paper into strips and stuff it into chicken wire.† There are ways to be helpful, you just have to be assertive and find an effective way to do the job.
Every once in awhile, a pleasant surprise plops into your lap and brightens your day.† Once or maybe twice in a crazy lifetime you get a surprise that knocks you over.† I got one of these when I was told that I made Homecoming Court.† I just felt incredibly lucky that night when "Junior Duchess, Kimberly Aguillard" was announced and the crowd from the stadium, my friends, and family erupted into applause and whistles and shouts.† One by one, the Dads escorted the girls onto the football field and into the heart that the drill team made to surround the Homecoming Court.†
When the last member of the court was on the field and the heart closed, I felt like I was about to burst with happiness.† My friend, Andrea, (who had nominated me) has not stopped demanding my gratitude since then.† This great experience would not have happened to me if I did not have enough confidence to be myself.† For that, I thank my parents and the NFB.
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