“I’m a living example…” —Riley, Transition Services student
“I took a situation that could have devastated me and turned it into something good: family, independence, success,” says Riley, age 19. She spent three years in Wayfinder’s Transition Services, a life-skills program for young adults with vision loss. Riley was dealt a tough hand in life. But she has not just survived—she has flourished. And her intelligence and charisma shine through.
Riley lost her functional vision when she was shaken by her mother’s boyfriend at 8 months of age. “I can see people, my surroundings, color,” she describes. “I cannot read print. I can’t see inside windows.”
After a year in a foster home, Riley lived with her mother, who struggled with substance abuse. Riley’s maternal grandparents, a loving force in her life, gave her a home as her mother moved in and out of rehab.
When Riley was 12, her mother died and her grandparents’ health began to fail. She cycled through foster homes, group homes and psychiatric programs. “I spiraled out of control,” Riley recalls. “The more they tried to help me, the angrier I got.”
In 2016, Riley found Wayfinder’s Transition Services. “That’s where I made my family,” she says. “I was able to be somebody that I couldn’t be at home or school.” Riley participated in the program’s weekend workshops, two residential summer programs, and summer internships.
“Living on my own in the dorm during the summer programs taught me I was capable of doing it,” Riley says. “Traveling in the community gave me mobility skills to cross California by myself. Seeing the success of visually impaired staff members gave me confidence.”
What would she say about Transition Services to someone in similar circumstances? “I would ask, ‘Are you signed up? ’Cause if not, let me help you.’ I’d probably have a spare application in my purse,” she laughs.
Now, Riley is working to get a dog guide and plans to enroll in college to study child development. She says, “I’m a living example of what Transition Services does.”
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February 7, 2020