With sights on the future

Michael Brown,

Going blind at age 12 from a brain tumor that crushed my optic nerves, I had no idea what life would be like without sight. People have a tendency to plan their whole lives out, but something life-changing always has a way to completely alter life as you know it.

Most people think that going blind would be a way to change your life forever, and it did for me, but losing my sight didn’t limit my possibilities; it only focused my vision.

Since age 9, I always wanted to write books but was aware of the fact I needed a means to pay the bills and survive until my first big best-seller. Years later, in ninth grade, I found my answer: I would become a librarian. I had been shown a passion for reading, writing and helping students to one’s best ability by my junior high school librarian, so the idea of making it a career choice came naturally.

I could combine my love of books with a passion for helping students, the same passion that others showed me. My path was set, and as an educator, I could help others set their path.

To be a librarian in a school, I needed to receive a degree in teaching, so I chose secondary education with a focus in English and enrolled at NCC because of its easy-to-navigate-with-a-cane size, friendly staff and a residence hall that would give me independence.

My first semester in fall of 2016 was a bit of a roller coaster. I had to get used to the idea of living with a complete stranger. My class work was somewhat easier to manage. My biggest issue was technology. As a blind person, I use text-to-speech programs for both my laptop and iPad. When both devices work, everything is great and I am able to deliver my work.

Unfortunately, my first week of school, my new computer did not have the services in place yet for me to learn my way around its programs. Neither of my devices gave me enough to act on their own. Once I figured out the ways around my technology, the rest of the semester went well, and I was able to complete my classes without issue.

The rest of my time at NCC went by rather quickly. After my second semester and dealing with my second roommate, I had decided to get a Seeing Eye dog. That was the summer I was paired with my partner, Riley, a male English black lab. He serves as my guide, friend and companion. I serve as his parent and caretaker. Together, we make an efficient team.

Riley was a godsend and gave me mobility, independence and the help I needed to find rooms, even people. He helped me cross the street and get to class on time. He helped me navigate campus with ease and became my eyes when I needed him. I learned a lot about myself from Riley. He helps me live a more independent, fulfilling life.

I graduated in December and walked across the stage with Riley in tow to accept my diploma. My sights are now on Kutztown University, where I hope to earn my degree in library sciences and enter the next stage on my journey to becoming a librarian. Of course, Riley will be with me every step of the way.

[Published in the Summer 2019 Northampton Community College Magazine.]