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February 2012 Graduating Class


Our Graduates:

Sabina Agpawa Berube & Bonita
Rochelle Brothers & Adriana
Walter Foster & Felix
Leah Hawes & Shirley
Barbara Henning & Hannah
Randall Horwitz & Ardsley
Melissa & Harkin
Howard Levine & Rhett
Robert Lewark & Jake
David Moyer & Harris
Jeffrey Pledger & Joelle
Wenisha Richardson & Thomas

Many thanks to our instructors:
Miranda Beckmann, Class Supervisor
Jessy DiNapoli, Support Instructor
Megan Crowley, Class Instructor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Anne Savo, Instructor Assistant

Sabina Agpawa Berube and Bonita

Sabina Berube lives in Colorado and is paired with her first guide dog – yellow Lab Bonita.

Sabina was blinded due to a congenital disease that caused optic nerve atrophy. She has been a licensed massage therapist for twenty years. Relaxing times are spent volunteering, knitting and working on her mosaic and tactile arts.  She loves being outdoors – hiking, snowshoeing, sailing, fishing and gardening with her husband.

“Being afraid to go shopping or cross the street created a great sense of loss. I knew it was time for a guide dog.” Bonita has removed the angst of cane travel and is the perfect match for Sabina.  She is looking forward to being an advocate for guide dog work.


Rochelle Brothers and Adriana

Rochelle Brothers returns to Guiding Eyes and is matched with a female yellow Lab, Adriana.

Rochelle is the youngest in her family and lives in Massachusetts. Lifesaving treatment for a severe asthma attack caused her vision loss. She loves animals, plays the cello, rides horses and loves to read. She will be traveling to Scotland to continue her education in English and Celtic studies.

Adriana provides safety and confidence when guiding Rochelle around obstacles; Rochelle also feels her dog makes her more approachable. The bond between them began with Adriana crawling into her lap. Adriana’s favorite game is hide-and-seek and she likes to rip the feet off the cuzman ball.


Walter Foster and Felix

Walter Foster is matched with his first guide dog, a male black Lab named Felix. They will return to North Carolina together.

Walter lost his vision two years ago.  A bleeding ulcer stopped the flow of blood to his eyes and caused optic nerve damage. He enjoys sports, drawing, fishing and bowling. His career has changed, but his spirit has certainly remained; he looks forward to his wedding to Phoebe this July and a new, more independent future. “I see things differently now.”

Felix will learn the route to the barbershop and grocery store. Walter’s neighborhood has sidewalks and he can’t wait to get out with Felix. “Perhaps Felix will enjoy fishing.”


Leah E. Hawes and Shirley

Leah Hawes will return home to Michigan with her first guide dog – yellow Lab Shirley.

Leah was born in South Korea.  She was abandoned by her parents when she was 18 months old and was later adopted by an American family.  Her three siblings were also adopted.  Optic nerve atrophy left her with no depth perception, so she relates that “everything looks like a foggy photograph.”  Leah attended mainstream schools and has a background in marketing and retail sales. She enjoys photography, painting, reading, fishing and boating.

Leah shares, “I am ready for the assistance of a guide dog and look forward to the responsibility of taking care of Shirley.”


Barbara Henning and Hannah

Barbara Henning returns to Kentucky with Hanna, a female yellow Lab.

Barbara comes from a large family and was born with Leber’s congenital amaurosis. She holds a degree in performing arts with a concentration in music performance; she has been repairing and tuning pianos for over 20 years.  Barbara also teaches music and plays the violin.  Quiet time is spent reading murder mysteries and watching Star Trek.  Barbara loves taking long walks and recording and editing audio.

Her first guide dog gave her a sense of purpose – something to care for.  Her guides have also helped her through many of life’s emotional journeys.

Listen to Barbara sing You Raise Me Up at her class graduation ceremony.

Randall Horwitz and Ardsley

Randy Horowitz, a 36-year-old manager at IBM with a degree in Computer Science from Rochester Institute of Technology, recently returned to Guiding Eyes for his fourth guide dog, Ardsley.  Randy is a veteran guide dog user who lost his eyesight as a result of retinoblastoma in infancy.  Having a guide dog has become a way of life, and Randy cannot imagine living any other way.  He was just a senior in high school when he first came to Guiding Eyes; his guide dog provided him with the independence to navigate the snow-covered sidewalks of his school and helped him to meet and bond with his fellow classmates.

Today, Randy travels extensively all over the country recruiting promising computer science majors for the internship program he manages at IBM.  In this capacity, having a guide dog is invaluable; he is able to travel by plane, train and automobile with ease and never worries about getting lost in an unfamiliar place. His home area in a large city in Texas is also challenging due to unusual traffic patterns and sidewalks.  This was something Randy rarely thought about until he had to use a cane for two months while waiting to come to Guiding Eyes for Ardsley.  The difficulties he encountered further underscored the freedom and ease of movement he has enjoyed since becoming a guide dog user over fifteen years ago.

Simply put, Randy remarks, “Having a guide dog just makes life easier.  It is so much more efficient in every way and the bond I share with my guides is something I could never have with an inanimate object like a cane.”


Melissa and Harkin

Melissa was matched with Harkin, a male yellow Lab.  Her vision loss is progressive and unpredictable

Melissa has a degree in psychology and community health care.  She currently volunteers for her community emergency response team and for the local hospital.  She enjoys reading, taking long walks, writing and playing baseball.

“The transition from first to second dog requires an open mind going in, especially when the bond was so strong.” Making the transition with Harkin has been easy. Melissa is looking forward to returning to her routine and experiencing life with Harkin by her side.


Howard J. Levine and Rhett

Howard Levine is from New York and is matched with Rhett, a yellow male Lab.

Howard was born with congenital cataracts. Howard was able to get around without any mobility aide before his vision changed in 2005.  He realized guide dogs would offer the highest degree of mobility and independence and allow him to continue to enjoy life.  Howard’s a business owner and ham radio operator.  He loves following horse racing and enjoys discussing history and politics.

The experience at Guiding Eyes has been enjoyable.  “The people go above and beyond what I expected.”


Robert Lewark and Jake

Robert Lewark and black Lab Jake will head home to Colorado.

Robert was born with extreme myopia and grew up being teased for his “coke bottle” glasses.  After high school he went into the music business and produced the anthems for the 1996 Olympic Games.  He taught students how to apply sound to film and animation.  In 1995 cataract surgery corrected his vision and he returned to college for his degree in environmental design.   In one of his post-college roles, Robert designed the coffee setups and roasters for Whole Foods.

Robert’s vision worsened in 2005 when he developed glaucoma.  He did not want to be a burden on his wife and son and chose to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind to learn adaptive daily living skills.   Now Robert acts as a consultant to non profit organizations, offering his business acuity to various aspects of their operations.  Robert looks forward to returning home with Jake.


David Moyer and Harris

Massachusetts resident David Moyer was matched with male yellow Lab Harris. David suffered a head injury in 1997 that left him totally blind.

David majored in business at Cape Cod Community College.  He grew up with a musician father and often composes songs to play on his collection of acoustic guitars.  David’s previous dog Meyer seemed to enjoy listening to the music, and David is curious to see how Harris will respond.

“Harris loves to pose in downward dog for minutes on end before settling down. I am looking forward to returning home and getting to know him further. I thought I wanted a shepherd and now I absolutely love having a Lab.”


Jeffrey Pledger and Joelle

Jeffrey Pledger and yellow Lab Joelle will return to Maryland together.

Jeffrey’s life changed when he was 27 years old; he contracted Cryptococcus, meningitis and encephalitis.  He was placed into a coma so his body could recover, and when he woke up he was totally blind.  Jeffrey shares, “I thought I was going to die.  But like so many people, I was given an opportunity to fail or succeed.”
Jeff chose to succeed; he learned new life skills and returned to school with a guide dog by his side.  He graduated cum laude from New York University and then attended George Washington University for a master’s degree in telecommunications.  He met his wife waiting for a train and they have a grown daughter.

Jeffrey has always been an advocate for people with disabilities.  Years ago, he was the first blind employee ever hired by Bell Atlantic.  Jeff currently works for Verizon.  In his free time, he runs marathons, raises money for Guiding Eyes, and advocates for people that need support.  Jeff knows that he’ll continue to make a difference in the world with Joelle by his side.


Wenisha L. Richardson and Thomas

18-year-old Wenisha Richardson was matched with her first guide dog – yellow Lab Thomas. They will return home to North Carolina.

Wenisha attends a school for the blind during the week and spends weekends home with her family.  (They can’t wait to meet Thomas.)  A genetic condition affects her central and peripheral vision and her sight rapidly deteriorated last summer.  Wenisha’s mobility instructor encouraged her to get a guide dog before college.

Wenisha looks forward to attending school with Thomas.  They’ll be studying physical education and music production.  During free time, Thomas will accompany Wenisha as she plays sports, sings and dances.  She’s also a computer guru, and everyone comes to her for help with their own computers.  Wenisha knows she’ll make even more new friends with Thomas in her life.