I will never forget the day I met her. She was a bright, spunky 14-year-old ready to begin high school. Her parents had made a commitment to private Catholic education for her and her three younger siblings, and she had successfully and happily completed her elementary and middle school years at a nearby Catholic school. However, the Catholic high school was reluctant to admit her. After all, they had a high grading standard and the special equipment and assistance she would require might be a "disruption" to other students. You see, she was legally blind.
That is how I, and our school, got the unique blessing of meeting Aria. Her mother brought the letter from the school, which stated that if she needed enlarged copies of handouts or worksheets her parents would have to provide the paper and come in after school to make the copies as the school faculty and staff were too busy; that her monocular and text reader would be a disruption to her classmates; that her special needs might be better met in a public school. Although our Christian high school had a special needs program, we had never enrolled a student with a visual impairment before. Nevertheless, I was determined that we would do whatever it took to meet her needs at our school.
With help from her parents, the Foundation for Blind Children, and the local school district, we were able to craft an individual plan for Aria to be included in all of her classes at our high school. We worked with Vocational Rehabilitation and enrolled her in two summer programs to prepare her for college. Through these programs, she was able to obtain more efficient technology that assisted her keeping up with her school work. The school district sent the Teacher of the Visually Impaired to our school a few mornings a week for four years to help Aria learn Braille. They also sent the Orientation and Mobility Specialist to help her learn to navigate the world and further prepare for life after high school.
Aria sang in the choir. She ran on the track team, and - even after my protest - learned to pole vault! She placed fifth in the state track meet alongside her peers from other schools, all of whom had normal vision. She got a full academic scholarship to a major state university where she recently graduated - with two majors, two minors, and honors, of course. She wants to pursue law school next.
If I ended the story there, it would be exciting enough. But the rest of the story is that because Aria came to our school, studied the Bible, attended chapel, and had to wrestle with some difficult questions...she asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior. The school who rejected her missed an opportunity to teach, mentor, and disciple a God-created, unique young lady. I'm so glad we didn't!