The Future is Bright for Center Alumna

September, 2015

A college-aged woman who is visually impaired puts her arm around a kindergarten boy with glasses, who smiles at his iPad in his classroom

Karen Arcos is a USC alumna who is currently studying for her doctorate at the University of California, Irvine. She attended Blind Children’s Center from the age of six months through preschool and has remained one of our most dedicated volunteers.

The University of South­ern California offered Karen a full four-year scholarship. She is one of only eight students nationally to receive this scholarship. She hopes to one day be a clinical psychologist, a goal she is pursuing actively through her graduate studies.

It hasn’t been easy for Karen. She has had to face many challenges getting to this point. Karen says that it is something you have to get used to when you cannot see. “Get used to doing more work,” Karen tells the children, “listen to instructions and follow the guidelines set forth by your teachers and mentors.” Karen has lived by those words and has never given up. We are proud of her and are excited to see all that her future will bring.

“In my own words”

As a totally blind alumna of the Blind Children’s Center, I have served as a Junior Mentor for more than a decade. When volunteering there, I candidly answer parents’ questions in either English or Spanish.

A mother once asked me about my marriage plans. She feared her daughter would not find someone in the world. I told her I would like my husband to be sensitive towards my needs and not someone who would take advantage of me. I also let her know that her daughter would find a significant other while also caring for herself independently, and this confirmation brought tears to her eyes.

I am humbled by parents’ positive comments about me because my goal is to reassure them that their children can be valuable contributors to society someday.

When interning at the Center as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California, I taught a mother and daughter about braille. I introduced a first-grader to the basic use of a portable machine called a BrailleNote Apex, which is analogous to a computer. She learned the keystrokes to navigate menus, open documents, and write within documents in braille. Through our work together, I sought to spark the student’s curiosity in technology while instilling the importance and utility of braille to daily life. I also taught her mother a more advanced form of braille called contractions.

Many parents do NOT know braille prior to coming to the Center and thus support their child’s literacy development less until given a foundation. Despite literacy serving as a crucial means of obtaining information for the general population, ninety percent of blind individuals nationwide do NOT know braille, yet ninety percent of those who do are employed according to the National Federation of the Blind. I would like to increase the number of braille literate individuals. Therefore, my doctoral work in cognitive neuroscience at the University of California, Irvine will involve researching the impact of braille on working memory starting this fall.

Being a Junior Mentor has given me personal growth because I see the results of my efforts while interacting with others. The Center is as important to me as water is to Earth. I hope it continues watering infinite rosebuds in the future.