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The lightness in my dark: OALA supports, inspires

Jan. 20, 2010

By Stephanie Lee

The cool, crisp chill of the air was present as I walked across the Baylor campus with my mom beside me one fall day in 2007.

I was struggling with an important decision that could potentially change my life, but I finally felt a sense of peace as I walked.

My decision was difficult. Should I continue to be unhappy? If I transfer, will I let my family down? How will this affect me?

I have been blind since birth, and it has been challenging. During the course of my life, I have overcome many unforgettable obstacles.

Many of these were and continue to be difficult.

For example, I constantly have to depend on people to take me to various places.

I wish I had a car at my disposal, because right now, I feel trapped anytime I wish to go anywhere on my own.

In October of 2007, I attended Texas A&M University, and I can honestly say that I experienced one of the lowest points in my life.

However, I also learned so much from this experience. A person should never make a hasty decision, no matter what anyone may say. My decision to attend this university was a quick one because I was not sure where I wanted to further my education. My sister graduated from A&M so I knew about the traditions and also knew the academic programs were nationally recognized.

Little did I know, the decision was too wrong, too quick.

As a blind student, there are many things to consider when picking the right university. How large is the campus? How long is the walk from building to building? Is there anything that could hinder me from being independent?

While attending A&M, I was literally in the dark and alone. My classes were large, consisting of 100 or more students. The professors did not take the time to get to know me on a personal level. After midterm grades were released, I had an F in one course. I am an A/B student, so failing is not consistent with my behavior. I spoke with this professor, and he told me that since I was failing his course, I didn't deserve to be at A&M.

When I would get lost walking to class, the students did not help me and were very rude. They would simply walk by as if I was not there.

While I was there, I also got stopped by a police officer for jaywalking.

My A&M journey ended in November of that year when I was admitted into Baylor. My hometown of West is just 20 miles north of Waco, so I was familiar with the university.

I attended many summer music camps there while in high school and liked the campus atmosphere.

My mom always told me to apply, but I was ready to spread my wings a little. Little did I know, I would end up back home.

A&M did not have a journalism department, and Baylor did. I love to write, and at Baylor I could express this love in the journalism program. Maxey Parrish, senior lecturer of journalism, had a strong influence when I decided to attend. He encouraged me and told me that my Baylor experience would be rewarding.

When I visited the campus, I made an appointment with the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation, also known as OALA, and I finally realized that I was in a place where I would be welcomed and known by my name (not just an identification number).

At OALA, I was welcomed with open arms.

That particular day, they provided the light that lifted my darkness. I was amazed.

In the fall of 2008, my Baylor journey began.

My professors also welcomed me despite my blindness. I was treated as a sighted student, and that is exactly what I wanted.

My two years at Baylor have been nothing short of phenomenal. I regret that I was unable to attend this great university during my entire college career.

During these two years, OALA has gone above and beyond its job description.

When I have needed anyone on staff, they've been there to lend a helping hand.

Whether I needed help with an assignment, someone to transcribe or read exams, take me to and from class, or just to be there for me when I have a rough day, OALA does nothing short of helping me to its fullest potential.

My two years as an OALA student have made me shine because of the support the staff has provided, and I can honestly say that OALA taught me that being at a four-year institution should not be so overwhelming, and the student is a top priority.

I truly believe that OALA made my darkness bright, and because of that, I will do my best to shine now and in the future.