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June 01, 2021

Student Spotlight

Chinonyerem "Noye" Enwereji

Smiling female student, working with braille machine and computer

Chinonyerem is a senior, majoring in Elementary Education/Pre-K - 4 and Special Education/Visually Impaired.

Why did you choose KU?

I was speaking with one of my favorite TVI’s or Teachers of the Visually Impaired, Ms. Jen, who was my early intervention specialist when I was younger, during an observation for one of my classes at Community College of Philadelphia. I asked her what school she went to obtain her degree to work with children with visual impairments. She said she went to Kutztown University to study.

As luck would have it a few months later, CCP had a college tour organized with Kutztown University and I and many others got the chance to tour KU’s campus. I toured the campus during the spring semester and the Sakura Blossoms were dancing in the gentle breeze as we walked around. I chose Kutztown University because I wanted to be an awesome Teacher of the Visually impaired and Kutztown has the largest program for the undergraduate level. Additionally, I could still continue my elementary education major alongside the visual impairment major. It was the best of both worlds.

What clubs and organizations are you involved with on campus?

I am involved in the Braille Bears, which anyone can join no matter what major you are. In the Braille Bears, we do a number of activities to promote awareness about visual impairment and braille literacy. Last semester, we transcribed some books from print to braille for author Dr. Sharon O’Maida and she sent them to a school for the blind in Kenya to be enjoyed by the wonderful students there. More recently, we went to Hawk Mountain, a trail not too far from Kutztown, to deliver the braille and large print signs that we embossed for individuals who need them. We are one step closer to making this world more accessible for all. If you want to learn more about the world of accessibility, braille and visual impairment, this is the club for you!

I recently just became a member of DAP Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society this semester (spring 2021) and I am so excited to see how we can help more people in the community!

One other place I enjoy is the recreation group exercise session run by Kathy. I wouldn’t train with anyone else. Kathy speaks all of the movements that she is doing in the front which helps me tremendously because I am not able to see what she is doing. For example, how a barbell is held to do a particular exercise. If one doesn’t do the movements correctly, they won’t get the full benefit of class. She is one of the best instructors. Come join us during kickboxing. You won’t be disappointed.

What made you enroll in the Visual Impairment Education Program?

The primary reason that compelled me was I wanted to assist the children in my care in realizing their dream and potential. The statistics are horrendously scary. 70%-80% of (visually impaired) people are unemployed or under-employed. My goal is to help my students figure out how they can do what they want to do. My students will have dreams of their own - of something they wish to do as a career such as a physicist, teacher or biomedical engineer. The possibilities are endless. I want my students to believe and know they get to choose what they want to do and all we have to do is figure out the best means for them to achieve that goal.

I myself am blind/visually impaired. I have albinism, a genetic condition that causes a lack of pigment in the eyes, skin and hair. Growing up, there were a number of teachers who didn’t believe that I would amount to much and it made me feel inadequate. But there were also a number of teachers that continued to encourage me and told me that the only person who decides my future will be nobody but me. That’s what I want for my students. I will be the person who believes in them so they can reach for the stars and beyond. I created a Youtube channel called “Braillion” so I can spread awareness about braille and visual impairment. It is so much fun.

How has Kutztown prepared you for this career track?

Kutztown has a unique program with a number of components that have prepared me for my career. When I graduate I will be certified to teach elementary education Pre-K - 4 and Visual Impairments. A number of education classes request that the student complete observation hours in a classroom. Going into a number of classrooms, I got so many chances to interact with and talk to the students there. They are my greatest teachers. I observed classroom community techniques that helped the children form bonds with each other. Those observations have allowed me to collect information, tools and techniques that I will be able to use when I become a certified teacher.

What is your favorite thing about attending Kutztown?

There are quite a few things I love about attending Kutztown. The first would be the wonderful friends I’ve made in all of my classes. I also absolutely love the professors and staff that I have encountered and they made class absolutely enjoyable. They are all so very kind and it is ever radiant. Thirdly, Kutztown also has a strong disability services office with amazing staff who have such welcoming energy. Speaking with them made navigating the process of acquiring accommodations for school uncomplicated and effortless.

Above all, my favorite thing about Kutztown is the amazing Visual Impairments Program. Dr. Nicole Johnson and Mrs. Becky Lutz are excellent teachers and I am very grateful for them. In this program, we have the opportunity to explore and learn how to use technology that we will use in the field such as the embosser, which is a braille printer, or the Braillenote taker, which is an electronics computer that can produce information in braille. We have this amazing opportunity to truly learn how to use this equipment so when we are in the field and have to teach a student how to use it, we are prepared.

I know how to use certain pieces of access technology such as my Braillenote touch, Barq, and the Jupiter, which is a portable standing electronic magnifier. There are so many pieces of access technology out there and you never know which one will be helpful to the students. Therefore it is crucially important to build a repertoire of the amazing technology that is out there and keep notes on how to use them.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

Start collecting a variety of books. A very wise professor,  Dr. Schoenly, told me and my friends that kids need to have books that are mirrors and windows. Mirrors are books that represent the child and windows allow them to bear witness to another person’s experiences. Go to library sales, ebay, thrift stores and ask for books for gifts.

Secondly, find a way to get in the classroom and spend time with the kids. Listen to what they have to say. I will tell you, most of the important lessons and things I have learned were things that they indirectly taught me. Store that knowledge because you never know when it will come in handy.

For vision majors, get involved with as many organizations for the blind as you can. Build friendships and contacts of people who are in the field. Start learning how to use the access technology while you are still at Kutztown because trying to learn how to use the technology and teaching a student how to use it at the same time will be very difficult.

Most importantly, gather all the information that you can from your professors. They are there to help you. And also, don’t forget to join the Braille Bears club on campus. "Braille is knowledge and knowledge is power." - Louis Braille

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