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June 2010 Graduating Class

Photo of June 2010 Graduating Class

William (Buddy) Ashby & Scotch
Ashley Coleman & Landon
Veronica Dupree & Libby
Ivan Fegundez & Regina
Michael Forzano & Delta
Sandra Fouts & Easter
Billy Hinnant & Caitlyn
Audrey Matheson & Ellen
Kristin Miller & Barry
Sarah Nelinson & Jax
Mitchell Saylor & Hanson
Caitlin Walsh & Arthur
Pawel Wdowik & Ralston
Fay Young & Hali
Mingkhwan Zehner & Windy

Home Training Graduates

Gladys Rodriguez & Kara

And many thanks to our instructors…

Melinda Angstrom, Class Supervisor
Jean Kolor, Class Instructor
Kathryn Klaus, Class Instructor
Caryn Fellows, Class Instructor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Krissy Andersen, Home Training Instructor
Amanda Cathey, Instructor’s Assistant

Photo of William “Buddy” Ashby and ScotchWilliam “Buddy” Ashby and Scotch
Kentucky resident William “Buddy” Ashby, 40, has returned to Guiding Eyes for his third guide dog, Scotch.  Buddy is eager to resume the independent life he has gained through the use of his guide dogs.  He received his first one shortly after a pituitary brain tumor claimed his vision in 1993.  Now, having a guide dog is a way of life.  A passionate sports fan, Buddy knows that Scotch will be as wonderful as his two previous dogs have been, and he is grateful to Guiding Eyes for the service it provides.

Ashley Coleman and LandonPhoto of Ashley Coleman and Landon
North Carolina resident Ashley Coleman, 22, came to Guiding Eyes after careful research and consideration.  In her third year at Bladen Community College, Ashley is studying to become a teacher of the visually impaired.  She has never let the optic atrophy that caused her vision loss to slow her down, and she knows that having Landon, her first guide dog, will enable her to become even more independent.

Photo of Veronica Dupree and LibbyVeronica Dupree and Libby
Veronica Dupree, 47, from North Carolina made the decision to come to Guiding Eyes because, as she puts it, she was “tired of getting lost.” A dog lover, the bond she already shares with Libby is profound.  Veronica has three grown children and four grandchildren.  She is a full-time student at Wilson Community College where she majors in information technology.  Veronica is an experienced cook and enjoys playing with her grandchildren and dancing.  She describes her journey getting a guide dog as a therapeutic one that has opened the door for many new possibilities.

Michael Forzano and DeltaPhoto of Michael Forzano and Delta
Michael Forzano, 18, is going into his sophomore year at Binghamton University where he will major in computer science.  His first experience with a guide dog has lived up to his expectations.  Totally blind and hearing impaired, Michael sought greater safety and mobility in making the decision to come to the school.  There are areas of his college campus that he simply could not navigate with a cane; he knows that his new dog, Delta, will enable him to access these areas and provide the companionship that a cane does not offer.  In addition to his interest in computers, Michael loves music and has been playing the saxophone for ten years.  He is looking forward to traveling to unfamiliar places with Delta, knowing that he will feel safe and confident.

Photo of Ivan Fegundez and ReginaIvan Fegundez and Regina
Ivan Fegundez, 18, graduated from high school just a few days before coming to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog, Regina.  Blind since birth, Ivan notes the profound difference in traveling with a guide dog and using a cane, remarking that travel is not only faster and safer with a dog, but the sense of companionship that emerges from working as a team is deeply indescribable.  Ivan enjoys audio mixing and has a passion for music.  His first experience at Guiding Eyes has been a positive one; he comments, “It’s a great school.  The staff really tries to make you feel at home.”

Billy Hinant and CaitlynPhoto of Billy Hinant and Caitlyn
Forty-four-year-old Billy Hinant of North Carolina came to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog, Caitlyn.  Billy has retinitis pigmentosa; by the age of 11, he could no longer see stars in the sky; by 15, he could not see a baseball; and by 19, he could no longer drive.  Billy’s vision has been steadily decreasing.  A skilled construction worker by trade, Billy has since started his own company called Blind Billy’s Inspirational Stick Company.  He handcrafts intricate and beautiful walking sticks for hiking.  He is already forming a close bond with Caitlyn and knows that she will provide him with the safety and freedom of mobility he desires.

Photo of Audrey Matheson and EllenAudrey Matheson and Ellen
Audrey Matheson, 68, from Alberta, Canada, has come to Guiding Eyes for her fifth guide dog from the school.  An experienced guide dog user, Audrey took advantage of the Action Program which is an abbreviated training program.  Audrey’s vision loss is the result of congenital glaucoma.  In her dogs, she has found the freedom of movement she longed for over 25 years ago when she first came to the school.  But Audrey is equally fulfilled by the sense of responsibility she feels in caring for her dogs – in the satisfaction that comes from meeting the needs of another living thing.  As a retired employee of the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), Audrey has witnessed many guide dog teams and feels that the most successful ones have come from Guiding Eyes.  She knows that Ellen will continue in the tradition of the successful guides who have come before her.

Kristen Miller and BarryPhoto of Kristen Miller and Barry
Twenty-year-old Kristen Miller returned to Guiding Eyes for Barry, her second guide dog.  Kristen lost most of her vision as the result of a pituitary tumor that stretched her optic nerves and describes her experience with her guides as giving her “a whole new sense of freedom…it feels like flying.”  A college student pursuing a degree in social work focusing on advocacy for children with disabilities at Wake Tech Community College in North Carolina, Kristen also loves the outdoors.  She horseback rides, swims, camps, and hikes.  Her willingness to participate in these activities is largely due to the independence and freedom of movement she feels with her guide.

Photo of Sarah Nelinson and JaxSarah Nelinson and Jax
Sarah Nelinson, 23, was born with glaucoma in her left eye.  As she got older, she experienced some balance issues which turned out to be a symptom of Usher’s syndrome.  She was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 15.  Sarah, a Maryland resident, has used a cane for the past five years and is thrilled to have her first guide dog, Jax.  She decided to come to Guiding Eyes when her best friend—a Guiding Eyes graduate whom she met at a Deaf/Blind training at the Helen Keller National Center—raved about the program at Guiding Eyes.  A recent college graduate, Sarah is excited to begin a career in pastry and baking and will begin working in the restaurant at the Marriott Hotel in Baltimore this fall.

Mitchell Saylor and HansonPhoto of Mitchell Saylor and Hanson
Mitchell Saylor, 20, of Kentucky experienced his vision loss at the age of ten due to retinal detachment.  His decision to come to Guiding Eyes was not a difficult one; his sister is a Guiding Eyes graduate and Mitchell has witnessed the successful mobility and companionship she has been able to achieve.  He aspires to attend massage school and is a music lover who shares this passion with his family.  He plays the guitar, mandolin, banjo, and drums.  Mitchell describes his experience at Guiding Eyes as “wonderful from the first walk with Hanson in harness.”

Photo of Fay Young and HaliFay Young and Hali
Fay Young, 72, of Florida lost sight in her left eye over thirty years ago due to optic neuritis and glaucoma.  She then became blind in both eyes after a surgery.  Returning to Guiding Eyes for her second dog, Hali, Fay is eager to share the companionship and sense of independence she knows her new guide will provide.  Fay is a trained violinist and is part of an ensemble group called the Clown Packing Grandmas that performs shows at nursing homes.  Fay comments, “Guiding Eyes has been so wonderful in every aspect…they accommodate every person’s individual needs and help us to succeed in a way that is best for us.”

Caitlin Walsh and ArthurPhoto of Caitlin Walsh and Arthur
Caitlin Walsh, an 18-year-old Illinois native, knew she wanted a guide dog three years ago when she first visited Guiding Eye’ Training Center and had the opportunity to walk with a dog.  Before coming to the school, Caitlin traveled with a cane and describes the difference between traveling with a cane and a dog as “moving from night to day…a cane is choppy and with a dog, there is rhythm.”  Caitlin just graduated from high school with top honors and is passionate about writing, acting, and music.  She will be attending Rock Valley Community College and will later move on to Northern University where she will pursue a degree in teaching English and special education.

Photo of Pawel Wdowik and RalstonPawel Wdowik and Ralston
Pawel Wdowik, 41, was born in Poland and blind from birth. He came to Yorktown Heights for Guiding Eyes Ralston.  The school made the necessary resources available to him to travel to the U.S. and enroll in its Residential Training Program.  Pawel has a Masters degree in Psychology from the University of Warsaw, and has been Director of the University of Warsaw’s Office for Persons with Disabilities for 13 years. He is also a radio journalist who conducts a talk show twice weekly under the auspices of Catholic Radio. Pawel and his wife of seven years have three boys- ages 6, 4, and 2.  Pawel knows that Ralston will bring back his speed in movement and his feelings of independence. He speaks of Guiding Eyes as “a highly professional place, where students are treated as persons of value, with strong family-like support and respect.”

Photo of Ming Zehner and WindyMing Zehner and Windy
Illinois resident Ming Zehner, 22, remarks that since coming to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog, Windy, she feels as though she “has gotten eyes back…a dog offers so much more than a cane.”  Ming’s vision loss is the result of optic nerve atrophy that occurred when she was just eight months old.  A full-time student at Rock Valley College majoring in state rehabilitation counseling and general counseling, Ming is eager to work as a team with Windy as she navigates the campus.  When she has a break from her rigorous academic course load, Ming enjoys reading, walking, swimming, running track, weaving, and anything that allows her to use her imagination.  She is grateful to the staff for its commitment to providing an environment where students feel empowered to thrive.