Legally blind Cary student wins $10K scholarship to pursue future helping others with disabilities

July 27, 2022

Originally posted on WRA-TV

By Rick Armstrong

Cary, N.C. — An 18-year-old graduate of Panther Creek High School in Cary was one of only 15 students across the country to win a $10,000 scholarship from the Lighthouse Guild of New York City.

At the age of 7, Avery Sallean was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy.

“It’s kind of like looking through fog,” Sallean said. “It is very blurry in the center of my vision.

“I have some clarity in my side vision, but I am legally blind.”

Sallean and her two sisters were born as fraternal triplets. She considers it a great blessing, especially as they grew up together in school.

“It’s kind of like having built-in best friends,” Sallean said. “You have these people that kind of understand you from the get go. For me, I kind of called them my seeing-eye-dog.”

Sallean’s positive outlook and ambitions were expressed in a winning essay she submitted to the Lighthouse Guild. The organization provides as a variety of services for those living with blindness as well as scholarship awards.

Dr. Calvin Roberts, an ophthalmologist, is CEO and president of the organization. Sallean’s essay caught his attention.

“What really impressed us about Avery is how she is not defined by her visual impairment,” Roberts said. “However, it just motivates her to do more.”

Roberts said people living with visual impairment can’t ignore the limitations they deal with everyday.

“Everyone wants to fit in an when you have a disability,” Roberts said. “It really sets you apart, and it just makes it a little harder.”

Sallean worked at a nursing home shadowing occupational, speech and physical therapists for six months. She also loves working with children.

“I’ve work at special needs camps for the past five years,” Sallean said.

Sallean said the $10,000 scholarship will take her to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she plans to pursue a degree in occupational therapy. One of her two sisters will join her at UNC, a giant step for the triplets.

“It’s going to be the first time that we are ever really separated, so that’s going to be really hard, because we are very, very close,” Sallean said.

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