Margarita had awakened from sleep when she saw the spider. “Really big.” It started to crawl down the wall. She stared in horror but it continued towards her. “Coming down, coming down, coming down.” It stopped on her belly. She screamed.
The spider wasn’t real, but a hallucination, a symptom of a condition called Charles Bonnet syndrome. It was diagnosed in 2016. As if that weren’t enough, Margarita was born with Nystagmus, a disease that causes rapid, uncontrolled eye movements. She also suffers from photophobia, a painful sensitivity to the sun and bright indoor light, and she has cataracts.
“I was never like other children,” she says. “I never played with a ball. I went to school late.” She was bullied. “People were laughing at me because my eyes moved around and that made me a shy person. This problem still makes me feel nervous, anxious, but I continue. I never give up.”
Margarita wanted to get her high school equivalency degree so she could attend college and pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. With the help of Lighthouse Guild’s education program instructors, she started to make her dream a reality. She passed five required tests and was awarded her High School Equivalency Diploma by the New York State Education Department. It was the culmination of two years of study. We hosted a graduation ceremony in Margarita’s honor earlier this month, which her family, her New York State Commission for the Blind counselor, and the Lighthouse Guild academic staff attended. It was the first graduation of this kind. Visit the Academic & Careers Servicespage to see highlights of this special ceremony.
Before she started working toward her high school equivalency degree, Lighthouse Guild had trained Margarita on devices that would give her more control over her life. Our organization, says Margarita, is “the best place I’ve ever seen because you can find everything you need here. You can find equipment, you can get your medication, you can find doctors. This is an amazing place. I can say when finding Lighthouse, I found myself.”