Justin Edwards has dreamed of becoming an archeologist since he was a little boy. His goal: to travel the world, searching for and recovering lost artifacts so that people can enjoy them in museums. He has researched the field and interviewed working archeologists. But relatives and friends have repeatedly questioned whether Edwards, who is blind, could ever accomplish his ambitious goal.
“It happened so much that I began to question if I could really do it,” Edwards said.
This summer, Edwards took a step closer to his dream career by completing The Transition to College Program offered by the Newton-based Carroll Center for the Blind.
The six-week program—designed for sight-impaired high school juniors, seniors, or recent graduates—provides advanced computer instruction for creating papers, downloading books, researching on the web, scanning, using college web-based management systems and social networking with new friends.
Just as importantly, the program gives blind students a chance to actually experience college life by living in Wheelock dorms and attending classes on campus. Students are exposed to the challenge of traveling across an unfamiliar campus to the dining hall and classes, learning to advocate for themselves and to ask for help, meeting other students, dealing with professors, and handling potential roommate issues.
“It gives them a glimpse into what college is going to be like to see if they’re ready for it or if they need to take a step back and get ready for it,” said Rabih Dow, director of rehabilitation services and international training at The Carroll Center.
This is the first year that the residential portion of the three-year-old program was held at Wheelock. It was also the first time that students were required to complete a for-credit writing course. During the course, the eight participating students each wrote a paper about a time in their lives when their expectations shifted from what someone else expected from them to what they expected from themselves. They then presented their papers aloud to their peers, professors, and other members of the Wheelock community.
“We expect them to put in the work that any other student would have to put in and to live up to Wheelock’s standards,” said Dow. “Getting ready for college is not all about a computer and technology. It’s about all of these experiences.”
Dow said there are about 12,000 blind high school students in the U.S. and only a handful of college-preparedness programs like The Transition to College Program. “There is a lot of room for growth,” he said.
In his paper, Justin Edwards said he no longer has doubts about whether he can finish college and finally become an archeologist. “One day, you might see my name in the paper with the words “Doctor,” “Archeologist,” and “famous” next to it,” he said.