CAPPS - Avocacy and Communication Professional Development

California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools

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Special Report: Beating the Odds

02/21/2014  Feb 20, 2014.

Some people who live in the Central Valley are doing extraordinary things and beating the odds.
        These residents have overcome adversities despite setbacks.
        From the outside looking in, you might not realize they're attending college, are in culnary school, and knitting without their sense of sight.
        Nathan Romo a culinary student, said "I can see light in here, but that's pretty much about it. I can't see colors, I can't see shapes." Romo has been blind since birth. 
        We were introduced to Nathan last July when heartless thieves burglarized his home. The cookware he needed to begin culinary school, like his talking thermometer and measuring spoons in braille were all gone. 
        But he didn't let that deter him from his dream of becoming a chef. Despite difficulties, he pushed forward with classes at the institute of technology culinary arts in Clovis, where he overcomes challenges everyday.
        "I accept there are some limitations for me, that's just reality, but i think you have to try and you have to find workarounds and you have to be creative," said Romo.
        In place of sight he uses his sense of touch, smell and taste.
        Nathan's the first student without any sight to be accepted into the school.
        At first, culinary director, Don Waddell admitted the institute was apprehensive.
        But Nathan's progress was nothing short of impressive.
        The school has provided culinary assistant, Matthew Moore, to work directly with Nathan. He's been instrumental in his training.
        "I want to show people, this is what he made. Yes, i'm helping him, but i'm only showing him the tips. It's all him when it comes to taste," said Moore.
        Each class, chef C. Scott gives Nathan's finished product a grade. He said his drive and ambition is remarkable.
        You might remember Shaela Warkentin. She was an active 15-year-old Bullard High student from Fresno. She suffered a horrible accident.
        "My head went through the back window and my seat belt pulled me back down, so i was de-gloved and my eyes were crushed," said Warkentin.
         Shaela's life changed forever. The car she was riding in was hit by a driver under the influence of prescription drugs, less than a block away from home.
        "Next thing I know it, I wake up and I'm in the hospital. I thought I had something over my eyes, I thought I had a bandage or blindfold or whatever. But, they said that, yeah, I'm blind," said Warkentin
        Through out coverage of her tragic story, she told dreams of being a child psychologist. So that she may help others work through similar adversities.
        Her life may have changed drastically, but she didn't let her loss of sight become more than a setback.
        "I want to pursue my goals, i want to go after them and just because i'm blind, doesn't mean i can't do anything," she said. She's now enrolled at Frenso State University.
        She's also taken up motivational speaking, discussing her story with young students.
        Each year, more than 150 new people with sight impairments learn vital skills.
        The Valley Center for the Blind in Fresno helps.
        Several women meet weekly to knit and crochet there. The center has become a support group.
       "After D got involved with this wild group, it's just been fun," said Maryann Vanderburgh-Nyberg.
        Adapting to the cards they've been delt, living life just as they had before.
        Nathan is expected to graduate from culinary school in Cctober.
        And Shaela, meantime, has been accepting every invite to openly speak about her accident and pass along a powerful message.
        The Valley Center for the blind is a non-profit organization helping those in the Central Valley with sight impairments. 
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