Becky Churnside, principal of Heroes Elementary School in Santa Ana, had just returned from summer break and was reviewing student files in preparation for the school year. As she read through the enrollment forms, she encountered something she’d never before seen in her 30-year educational career — one of the school’s new students was blind.
Becky knew that 6-year-old Milagro (Spanish for miracle), who had recently emigrated from El Salvador with her family, would need special services and assistance. She needed to act quickly to ensure Milagro would be set up for success with just two weeks left before school started.
A quick Google search led her to Beyond Blindness (formerly Blind Children’s Learning Center) in Santa Ana, which rang a bell for Becky, as she’d grown up just down the street from the facility. She reached out and Beyond Blindness’ Director of Strategy and Innovation, Meredith Cagle, answered the call.
“I can’t speak enough praise about Meredith and the entire Beyond Blindness team,” says Becky. “They immediately went into action for Milagro, understanding how best to work with the child, the family, the school and the district.”
Working together, Becky and Meredith coordinated a site visit for Milagro and her family at Beyond Blindness and an on-site exam via Ketchum's Low Vision Optometry Clinic within 48 hours. They supplied her with a white cane, as she’d left hers behind in El Salvador, and also enrolled her in Beyond Blindness’ summer enrichment camp for children with visual impairments and other disabilities, which Milagro attended on scholarship over the next two weeks. As Milagro didn’t have transportation, Becky called upon another Heroes Elementary family to drive Milagro to and from camp, and that family’s sighted children were also welcomed into the camp free of charge.
Thanks to Becky’s quick and determined action and Beyond Blindness’ expertise in working with school districts, children and families to build bright futures for children no matter their abilities, Milagro is now enjoying her TK class at Heroes Elementary and receiving services from both the district as well as Beyond Blindness.
“Milagro’s sparkling, feisty personality is emerging in the classroom and it’s wonderful to see,” says Becky. “The experience with Beyond Blindness has been a game-changer. I’m so thankful that they welcomed Milagro and her family into their ‘family.’”
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