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August 2008 Graduating Class

Meet some of the members of our recent training class who graduated in August 2008.

And many thanks to our instructors:

Many thanks to volunteer Marge Widman for contributing the interviews.

Joy Atin and Yarrow

A college student with sights on law school

Joy Atin of New Jersey returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for her third dog, Yarrow. She has been blind since her birth 32 years ago as a result of Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a rare inherited eye disease that affects around 1 in 80,000 of the population. Joy chose Guiding Eyes for its excellent training and family atmosphere. She earned her Bachelors degree in business administration and is now working towards her Masters in vocational rehabilitation, and is employed by the Commission for the Blind as an Employment Specialist.

Amidst a busy schedule of working and studying, Joy would like to find more time for exercise. One of her memorable athletic “swimming” adventures was when she fiercely hung onto the fins of a dolphin at Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida. As for her adventures on land, she looks forward to being guided safely to the subway and train by Yarrow. She also relishes the wonderful companionship that her new guide will provide. Joy was delighted with the changes in Guiding Eyes’ instructional methods and accommodations since her last visit, and also noted “The food here is terrific.”

Andrea Conner and Lopez

Guiding Eyes dog is a bonus to child care provider

Andrea Conner, 57, came to Guiding Eyes for the Blind from Illinois for Lopez, her first guide dog. Born nearsighted, Andrea lost her residual sight gradually as a result of “long (oval) eye,” cataracts and scar tissue. After she determined through an internet search that Guiding Eyes was the solution to her desire to lead a more productive and fuller life, she applied and the school responded to her inquiry immediately. She is married to her second husband for 16 years, has two sons and a daughter from her first marriage, and proudly boasts about her three grandchildren. Andrea operates a full-time day care enterprise, which for her is a dream come true. Sewing, watching game and reality shows plus going to the gym for physical fitness complement Andrea’s already busy schedule. Describing Lopez as an easy going, well-trained and obedient companion, Andrea asserts that her new partner will be a big plus for the children in her care.

Elroy Day and Pez

Veteran faces tragedy head on with magnificent results

In September, 1995, intruders entered the North Carolina apartment of Elroy Day and during the melee, shot Elroy in the head, leaving him without sight or smell and damaging a small portion of his brain. Despite the tragedy, Elroy has made remarkable progress in making his life count, not only for himself, but for others. He first came to Guiding Eyes for the Blind through the efforts and advice of his mobility instructor. In August he returned for his second guide dog, Pez. When Elroy was a teen, he served in the U.S. Navy’s Division of Nuclear Submarines. In the years that followed, Elroy worked for Alliance Services, Inc., and then served as a recruiter for the Red Cross. He is currently a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, Disabled Veterans Business Center – and numerous other civic and military organizations. Elroy is a golfer (he can hit his driver 300 yards), kayaker, rock climber and white water enthusiast. Elroy knows that Pez will bring an added level of companionship and freedom to whatever activity in which they engage. Elroy praises Guiding Eyes’ training as “professional, focused, practical, and assuring – their matchmaking expertise is amazing.”

Jack Every and Rusty

Professor and pooch are a team on campus

Jack Every, 52, came from Rhode Island for Rusty, his third dog from Guiding Eyes. Jack lost his sight at the age of 30 as a result of diabetes, and this event led him to return to school for a Ph.D. in history. Today he is a professor of American history at the Community College of Warwick, RI. Jack’s second wife, to whom he has been married 16 years, just retired from her position in the office of Rhode Island’s Secretary of State. Together they have two sons, ages 27 and 19. Jack is a serious Red Sox fan, likes to read and take daily walks. Rusty, like Jack’s two previous Guiding Eyes dogs, will enable his handler to safely travel to work at the college, sleeping in the classroom as Jack teaches. Jack has high praise of his third visit to Guiding Eyes: “Everyone here bends over backwards to ensure your success.”

Joseph Llop and Annabele

Former Fulbright Scholar travels from Spain for third Guiding Eyes dog

Joseph Llop, 43, came from Spain to Guiding Eyes for his third dog, Annabelle. Blind since birth due to prenatal medication taken by his mother, he was eventually directed to Guiding Eyes by a friend at the Jewish Guild for the Blind. Joseph’s entire life has been dedicated to advocating for the rights of the blind as full members of society. He earned an M.B.A. through a Fulbright Scholarship at Pace University, has a law degree, and has worked with and for many organizations, including teaching art education for the blind at New York City’s Whitney Museum. He is the proud mayor of his town, and is also a professor at three universities in Barcelona. He has been married for nine years and has a two-year-old daughter. Together his family enjoys hiking, skiing, biking and other outdoor activities. He already knows that Annabelle is a great worker in harness: “I feel a definite development of partnership in the works. She will be part of my freedom; moving about the city is difficult and she will be my own personal guide.”

Rachel Magario and Nettie

M.B.A. student is truly a Renaissance woman

Rachel Magario was born in Brazil and came to this country at the age of 11. When she was six she lost her sight because of a retinal detachment that occurred during a car accident. Now returning to Guiding Eyes for her second guide dog, Nettie, Rachel chose Guiding Eyes because of our dogs’ reputations as being superbly trained and possessing exemplary behaviors and personalities. She has an undergraduate degree in mass communication, and is now working on earning her M.B.A. from the University of Kansas, focusing on industrial design, journalism and leadership management – toward an interdisciplinary expertise with people, environment and products. Rachel is an active devotee of ceramics, pottery and sculpture but complements her artistic endeavors with kayaking, running, skiing, riding horses, dancing and parties. She also markets a line of cosmetics. Rachel says that Nettie is fast, obedient and a great leader “the two of us are quickly becoming connected.” Her 12-year-old retired guide dog awaits them at home. “I love this school and the consistency of behavioral standards, which make for an effective partnership between student and dog. Everyone here is so nice.”

Lenore Presley and Hobbs

Special Needs Graduate Has Advanced Degrees and First Guide Dog

Guiding Eyes’ is known for many things the school’s renowned Special Needs Program and strong humane approach are but just two proud points of distinction. These are what inspired Lenore Presley to travel here from California to claim her first guide dog, Hobbs. Born with Ushers Syndrome, Type 1, Lenore was deaf at birth with degenerative sight loss. Lenore has a AA degree in computer programming and data processing from Ohlone College and a BA degree in Social Work from California State University, Sacramento and was the university’s first deaf-blind graduate. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science dgree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling at CSUS. Married, with two children, Lenore wears many hats: she is studying parliamentary law, serves on the Deaf-Blind Commission, loves to read and uses the internet. Her husband serves as a professional sign language interpreter. For relaxation and pure enjoyment, she loves walking and spending time with family and friends. “Hobbs will be a tremendous aid for my independent travel to school and elsewhere. Even just walking with him will save a lot of time. My short time spent here within this wonderful environment has given me great training, experience, motivation and confidence; I’m so glad I came.”

Ken Quinn and Blossom

Amway entrepreneur returns for second Guiding Eyes dog

Ken Quinn’s blindness occurred at birth because of Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a rare inherited eye disease that affects around 1 in 80,000 of the population. He returned to Guiding Eyes from Pennsylvania for Blossom, his second guide dog. He first came to the school when he was 17, while a senior in high school. He and his first dog, Prelude, were a successful Guiding Eyes team; today Prelude is retired and living with Ken’s parents.

Ken graduated from Edinboro University, studying criminal justice, music, sociology, secondary education and social studies. He has been married for three years and has a three-month old daughter. Ken owns his own Amway business, as well as an Amway online marketing subsidiary named Quixtar. He plans to eventually move his family to New Jersey, where he would like to work full-time as a public school teacher. Ken loves to watch sports and is proud of his collection of sports memorabilia. He also enjoys listening to music: Christian, classical and rock. Ken was pleased that, early in his training program, he and Blossom began to understand each other and bond as a new team.

Karen Shrawder and Fiera

Rehabilitation Counselor has a passion for tutoring and Guiding Eyes dogs

Karen Shrawder, 38, returned to Guiding Eyes for her second guide dog, Fiera. Karen’s congenital blindness is attributed to PHPD – scar tissue in the eyes that cannot be removed. She earned two Bachelor and two Masters degrees in rehabilitation counseling from San Diego State University, and today is happily and successfully employed as a rehabilitation counselor. She enjoys reading, listening to modern Christian music, teaching and tutoring (her passion), as well as taking walks and other outdoor activities. She also boasts of having an eclectic collection of bells and turtles. At home, she and her husband share the dinnertime cooking.

Karen’s first dog, Vito, is today retired and living with friends. Karen expects that Fiera will enable her to more easily navigate public transportation and be a fun walking partner as well. “I love it here at Guiding Eyes: the miracles that are performed here are experienced in a small, familial and friendly atmosphere.”

Henry Tucker and Sancho

Graduate adds fourth Guiding Eyes dog to his large family

Henry Tucker of New York returned to Guiding Eyes for his fourth dog, Sancho, a handsome German shepherd. He lost his sight when he was six as the result of a detached retina, and was raised in a large family of three brothers and five sisters. Henry attended one year of college in Westbury, Long Island, but then joined the work force and among other jobs, sewed Army uniforms. Henry likes to bowl, and is justifiably proud of his highest score of 188. He is adept with his computer, and enjoys walking and socializing. Henry looks forward to returning home and resuming his job search.

Darran Zenger and Archer

Boy Scouts benefit from graduate’s proud Eagle Scout heritage

Darran Zenger, 33, traveled from Utah to train with Archer, his first dog from Guiding Eyes. Darran has been blind since birth with retinitis pigmentosa, but during his adolescence he also lost his hearing. He is married with three children – a son (age 9) and two daughters (ages 7 and 2). His wife encouraged him to apply to Guiding Eyes, because of our renowned Special Needs Program for those who in addition to blindness have an additional challenge.

Darran is proud of his Eagle Scout heritage and is today a troop leader. He attended Utah State University, and, as a stay-at-home father, applies his education to raising his children. Darran enjoys his home computer and for outdoor sport fishes and hunts.

Archer lavishes Darren with affectionate licks, and Darren is already enjoying Archer’s confident guide work. “He will make my travels a lot easier and give me more confidence and independence in moving about. I have been greatly impressed with Guiding Eyes’ training, environment and support system. It is definitely a home away from home.”