Danielle was born in Texas and then moved to Staten Island, New York with her family when she was five years old. At the age of 15, she moved back to Texas for three years, but returned to New York when she turned 18. Danielle was born prematurely, which resulted in her having Retinopathy of Prematurity, causing her to have zero visual acuity.

Danielle had a different experience than her sighted classmates in the educational system during her childhood and teenage years. She believes that her vision impairment led her teachers and classmates to label her, which hindered her ability to obtain the education she was capable of achieving. In 2004, due to unforeseen circumstances, Danielle left high school before completing her diploma. However, she later received an Individualized Education Program (IEP) diploma at the age of 21 from the New York Institute for Special Education (NYISE) in the Bronx.

Danielle’s Persistence

In 2005, Danielle embarked on an 18-year journey to obtain her High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma. She underwent training with various agencies, including Lighthouse Guild and the Catholic Guild for the Blind, and faced numerous challenges along the way. These challenges included a pandemic, recovery from an infection that required brain surgery, giving birth to two beautiful children, and caring for them while also working on her mobility, vision rehabilitation, and adaptive technology skills. Despite these obstacles, Danielle remained determined and persistent in achieving her educational goal. Finally, she succeeded in passing the final subject area of the exam, Math, and earning her HSE diploma. Her Math Instructor, Theresa Chinheya, was instrumental in helping her to master this subject. Danielle was presented with her HSE diploma on March 13, 2024, at a special ceremony hosted by Lighthouse Guild’s Academic Program. After the ceremony, Danielle said, “The feeling of completing and passing the exam is overwhelming. I actually surprised myself, and I feel relieved.” 

Danielle’s Message to Others

Danielle’s message to others six months later is, “It’s never too late, and it’s important to never give up and to keep pushing forward.” When asked about the Lighthouse Guild Academic Program, Danielle said, “Senior Academic Instructor Jacqueline Suh has been wonderful at putting all the accommodations together, and she extends our training for us when it’s necessary.” Danielle continues, “As far as I know, this may be the only such program geared to preparing individuals who have a vision impairment for the HSE. The staff are always accommodating, and they will make sure they provide you with what you need.” Senior InstructorJacqueline Suh said, “Danielle never lost sight of her goal, and finally, her persistence has paid off.” 

The mobility and vision rehabilitation training was important because it helped build my confidence, gave me more independence, and made me stronger.”

Danielle, Client

Danielle Brushes Up on Mobility, Vision Rehabilitation, and Adaptive Technology Skills, Too

Danielle acknowledges and is also grateful for the mobility, vision rehabilitation, and adaptive technology brush-up training she’s received from Lighthouse Guild while preparing for the HSE. She shares that staff has helped familiarize her with her local neighborhood, provided her with safety tips when using her cane, how to safely cross the street, tips on cooking, laundry, and sewing, keyboard training, training with the JAWS screen reader, and how to use a computer touch screen. Danielle said, “The mobility and vision rehabilitation training was important because it helped build my confidence, gave me more independence, and made me stronger.”

Danielle is Grateful to Lighthouse Guild Staff

Danielle also has praise for Adaptive Technology Specialist Cheryl Chung, saying, “Cheryl Chung was great at providing me with helpful tips and tricks when using the computer and helping me with all the updates on the new tricks that I did not know.” And regarding Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Monica Torres, Danielle said, “Monica Torres knows my situation because of previous training sessions with me over the years, and she has been a great help to me with brushing up on cooking tips.”

Regarding Lighthouse Guild’s Behavioral Health Program, Danielle said, “The therapy sessions available at Lighthouse Guild are key because they offer experts who are specifically trained to work with individuals who have vision loss.”

For anyone with a vision impairment, Danielle says, “I would recommend Lighthouse Guild to anyone who is blind or has low vision because they offer pretty much every service you might need.” She advises, “Don’t give up and keep pushing forward. If you need to take a break from conquering your goals, you should do that to prevent overwhelming yourself. Especially when there are limitations to what you can do.” 

Danielle’s Plans

Once Danielle’s children are in Head Start, she’s looking forward to getting a work-from-home job in the area of customer service.

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Lighthouse Guild is dedicated to providing exceptional services that inspire people who are visually impaired to attain their goals.