June 2012 Graduating Class
LeAnna Abeyta and Velour
New Mexico resident LeAnna Abeyta received her first guide dog, a yellow Lab named Velour. 20 year old LeAnna lost her sight from a congenital eye disease and made the decision that a guide dog would be the best fit for her active lifestyle. She will be attending New Mexico Highlands University to study music; she ultimately hopes to obtain a PhD in music studies. LeAnna currently works to help create special curriculums for assistive technology.
LeAnna came to Guiding Eyes after hearing wonderful recommendations about the program. She is incredibly happy with how she has spent her time here. Having so many other young students in the class has also contributed to her positive experience. LeAnna’s hobbies revolve around music, and she can amazingly play 18 different instruments. She loves to sing and her favorite instrument to play is the piano, which is how she spent most of her free time at Guiding Eyes.
Even though she has only had Velour for a few weeks so far, LeAnna describes her as a life-changing component in her life, and cannot describe how much help Velour will be in college. She already feels increasingly free and independent with her guide dog. She describes Velour as a “bundle of joy,” and looks forward to bringing her home to New Mexico.
Miranda Anderson and Magnus
Miranda Anderson, 23, will be returning home to Oklahoma with her first guide dog, Magnus, a black Lab. Miranda was born blind and has wanted a guide dog for years. She decided to go through the program with longtime friend Lea. Spending time with Lea and the other young students in class has made the experience even more rewarding.
Miranda graduated from Connors State with her Associates Degree and is deciding if she is interested in going back to school. She enjoys writing and may pursue a writing career. During her time at Guiding Eyes, Miranda has spent much of her time in the Assistive Technology Center to use the internet and do research. Other than writing and using the computer, Miranda enjoys reading, lifting weights, hiking, and doing anything outside. Miranda does a lot of walking at home and is excited for Magnus to help make all of her walking much smoother and allow her to travel at a quicker pace.
Nathan Bullock and Hardy
20-year-old Nathan Bullock comes to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog – black Lab Hardy. Nathan made the decision that he wanted a guide dog in order to better navigate his college campus. He is currently majoring in Special Education at Liberty University in Virginia and is interested in working for the state to set up assistive technology programs for the Deaf-Blind. He’s also considering the possibility of becoming a teacher for blind and visually impaired kids. Nathan enjoys music and plays the drums, flute, and piano. He also regularly beta tests assistive technology on the iPhone and provides feedback to Apple on ease of use.
Nathan decided Guiding Eyes was the best match for him because of the Special Needs Program. He lost his sight due to Norrie’s Disease at a very young age and developed hearing loss as he grew older. The Special Needs department has provided Nathan with more individualized instruction and made him feel very comfortable during training. He has enjoyed getting to know his classmates and says that having several students close to his age has been wonderful; he appreciates both the friendships and the wisdom from more experienced guide dog users. Nathan describes Hardy as his partner in crime; he is very excited to introduce his new buddy to the college lifestyle.
Marisa Cartiglia and Ada
New Yorker Marisa Cartiglia received black Labrador Ada. Marisa lost her sight due to Prolific Diabetic Retinopathy. Tired of commuting around New York City with a cane, she decided it was time to get a guide dog. During her free time, Marisa enjoys writing, listening to music, playing the guitar and following baseball.
Marisa will be starting school at Baruch College and will study business. She is interested in public relations, fundraising and marketing. She believes Ada will be incredibly helpful with her college transition and looks forward to the progress they will make together in the future. Ada and Marisa are building a strong bond, and Marisa knows her new guide dog will provide significantly increased mobility when navigating New York City.
Justin Hull and Ray
Justin Hull, 31, receives his first guide dog from Guiding Eyes and will return home to Nebraska with a black Lab named Ray. He was born with Retinopathy of Prematurity and has been blind since birth. After visiting the Guiding Eyes website and reading through the information made available, Justin made the decision to apply to get a guide dog. He shares, “It’s very comforting to know that the extensive follow up services are always available if I need them.”
Justin works as a Customer Services Sales Representative. He enjoys travelling, working with technology, spending time with family and friends, and listening to music. Increased mobility and independence are only two of the things Justin looks forward to with his new guide dog; the relationship and companionship formed with the dog is another aspect that Justin finds incredibly important. During his time at Guiding Eyes, Justin has enjoyed meeting with new people and learning from their experiences. He looks forward to returning home with his new guide and companion, Ray.
Lynn Lockhart and Christine
65-year-old Lynn Lockhart returns home to Minnesota with black Lab Christine. She has had limited vision throughout her life, but recently lost more of her sight due to Aniridia. Her decision to get a guide dog was influenced by friends who are significantly more active as a result of their dogs. Lynn looks forward to increased exercise. She also enjoys reading mysteries, singing and attending song circles, tandem biking and going to concerts of Baroque music.
Lynn is a retired psychologist. She received her bachelor and doctorate degrees from the University of Texas and practiced therapy for 33 years. Lynn is amazed by the bond she has already formed with her new guide; she knows Christine will make it much easier to travel and maintain her active lifestyle.
Blessing Offor and Cubby
Blessing Offor, 23, received his second guide dog from Guiding Eyes, a black Lab named Cubby. Blessing was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States at the age of six to receive treatment for his glaucoma. When he was 10, Blessing was shot with a water gun in his right eye, causing a detached retina and his vision to deteriorate completely.
Blessing grew up in Connecticut and then moved to Nashville where he attended Belmont University and studied music. After a year of school, he followed his heart and love for music through moving to New York City. Blessing currently lives in Brooklyn and is happily pursuing his dreams of being in the music business. He loves to play the piano, write music, and spend time in the recording studio. He has a record deal with Sojourn Records and has released one album titled “Guilty Pleasure.” A second album will be released in the near future.
Cubby will accompany Blessing to Nashville shortly after graduation, and in August, the pair will perform together at the Kennedy Center in Manhattan. When he’s not playing the piano or recording music, Blessing loves to explore New York City, cook and go to the gym.
Blessing shares, “A cane lacks awareness and only allows one to go so fast. With a guide dog, mobility becomes much easier. It’s an obscenely amazing experience.” Guiding Eyes has become like home to Blessing; he appreciates the warm atmosphere and efficient philosophy.
Dylan Shanaberger and Lyle
16-year-old Dylan Shanaberger was the youngest student in the June 2012 class and was matched with male black Labrador Lyle. Dylan developed Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy at age 13 and lost his sight over a period of six months. He made the decision to travel with a guide dog after attending the Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh to learn assistive technology. While he was there, he met several Guiding Eyes graduates from whom he received recommendations about the program.
Dylan is very artistic and enjoys writing, playing music and singing. He shares that he is “willing to try anything once.” Like our other young students, Dylan enjoyed the camaraderie with his classmates. With his sights already set on college to study business and marketing, Dylan says that Lyle will definitely be a huge help when this time comes.
Raven Tolliver and Kipling
Raven Tolliver, 19, comes to Guiding Eyes from Michigan for her first guide dog. She’s already formed an incredible bond with male golden retriever Kipling. Raven is studying philosophy with a pre-law emphasis at Aquinas College and plans to become a lawyer in family court. She loves writing stories, poetry and song lyrics, and enjoys reading science fiction, suspense, and fantasy novels. Raven loves computers and has spent hours of time in Guiding Eyes’ Assistive Technology Center.
Retinoblastoma caused Raven’s sight loss when she was only two-years-old. She looks forward to Kipling guiding her around objects that a cane just simply hits; his expertise will allow her to move much quicker. Raven is most excited about navigating her college campus with increased ease with her guide dog.
Raven has felt at home at Guiding Eyes from the beginning and describes everyone as being incredibly helpful, patient, and informative. She loves the ability to practice with her dog in Manhattan. She feels that, “if you can get through New York City, you can get through anywhere.”
Myrna Votta and Tally
New Yorker Myrna Votta participated in our expedited training program and returns home with Tally, a female yellow Labrador. Myrna’s lack of central vision was discovered when she was three months old. A flashlight was one of her favorite toys because she could easily identify its light.
Myrna earned her master’s degree from New York University. She taught music in public schools for eleven years and is now a technology expert with Humanware. Myrna enjoys visiting the theatre and traveling with her husband, especially going on cruises. She continues to be an advocate for the visually impaired, encouraging them to try all experiences.
Tally is Myrna’s eighth guide dog, and she loves to give hugs when out of harness. Myrna looks forward to traveling with Tally and enjoys her peppy and ready-to-work attitude.
Lea Williams and Blue
North Carolina resident Lea Williams was matched with her first guide dog – female black Lab Blue. Lea is 23 years old and spends time reading, being on the computer, learning new languages and cleaning. She also enjoys hanging out with friends, being outdoors and going to church. Lea has always loved animals; she lost her sight at eight years old and has been waiting for the right time to work with a guide dog. Blue will improve her independence and enable her to get out even more than she did before. Having a guide dog will give her more responsibility, allow her to exercise more frequently and open her world socially.
Lea has enjoyed her time training at Guiding Eyes, especially since she has been able to experience it with Miranda, a fellow classmate and friend she has had since she was eleven years old. Lea plans to finish school with a degree in ESL. She’ll then complete a vending program that will provide her with the skills to run her own food facility; her ultimate aspiration is to own her own restaurant. Leah feels that Blue will help her accomplish all of these goals with increased ease.
Sharon Zenger and Jude
Salt Lake City resident Sharon Zenger, 32, was matched with Jude, a male German shepherd. Sharon was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa and her vision has deteriorated throughout her life. She raised puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind for over ten years during her youth. Sharon currently works as an elementary school teacher at Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.
Sharon enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and going to sporting events. She is considering going back to school to study law. Having guide dogs has always given her more independence, allowing her to travel at a much faster speed. She would recommend a guide dog to anyone that leads an active lifestyle.