I really enjoyed the self-paced nature of the Hadley courses. Braille is very detailed, so I liked that I had all the time I needed.
— William, PA, 2014


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Congratulations to Hadley High School Class of 2016!

We are pleased to recognize the challenges and achievements of the 41 graduates who comprise the class of 2016; it is an honor to share their inspiring stories.

Nicholas Acosta, New York

Technology has been Nicholas' passion throughout his life and he'd like to continue to study computer science when he starts college next year.

Nicholas recently graduated from The New York Institute for Special Education, where he was introduced to computer coding. He was lucky to find a passion early in life and says proudly, "I love computers and music." He is interested in many types of music and would like to learn how to play several instruments. He is open to learning about other aspects of the music business – including audio engineering, that combine both his computer and music interests.

Nicholas has big plans and is very optimistic and excited about his future. "In 10 years, I see myself working for a computer company like Microsoft, Apple or Google."

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Eric Avignone, Illinois

Eric, who was born in Taegu, South Korea, was adopted by an American family at the age of two. His visual impairment was caused by Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a disease of the eye that can cause visual impairment to babies who are born prematurely.

He has successfully completed over 25 Hadley courses on the path to earning his high school diploma. Eric is to be commended, as he has earned grades of A for over half of the courses. Eric has said that "Throughout my life, dealing with my vision has been a struggle! However, I am thankful for all the opportunities I have been given, including Hadley!"

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Kevin Baker, Utah

Kevin BakerWhen he was school-aged, Kevin Baker attended Miller Career and Transition Center in Reseda, California. However, the school did not offer a high school diploma. After his school vision instructor told him about Hadley's High School Program, Kevin's mother encouraged him to take Hadley courses through distance education so he could attain his goal.

Kevin has retinitis pigmentosa, and his condition has been progressive. He saw fairly well as a small child but lost his vision over time. As such, he was a sighted learner for several years and, later, learned braille.

Kevin's favorite Hadley courses included foods, history, literature and poetry.

"I am very happy to have taken the time to complete the requirements for my diploma. It has also had a positive effect on the co-workers I work with every day who have challenges of their own. I find, almost daily, that some topic will come up, upon which I have formed an opinion because of my education at Hadley. My graduation has given me confidence to try challenging things," he said.

Currently, Kevin is a volunteer at Deseret Industries, which is similar in mission to the Salvation Army. There, he processes garment donations—hanging clothes for sale or for humanitarian purposes. Kevin hopes to continue in this role. In his free time, Kevin enjoys spending time with his 12-year-old black Lab, singing and playing piano. He also participates in Special Olympics in track, bowling and swimming. In addition, Kevin hopes to take a class at Utah State University, through the Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Rhonda Bourland, Oklahoma

Rhonda BourlandRhonda Bourland had macular degeneration throughout her life. By the time she reached high school age, her struggles with reading became overwhelming, and she did not graduate.

Many years later, Rhonda was referred to Hadley by the Department of Rehabilitation and Visual Services; yet, she credits her Hadley High School diploma to her late mother. When Rhonda's mother became seriously ill, it created a new found sense of urgency for her to obtain a diploma.

"Two years before my mother passed away from lung cancer I told her no matter what I would stay with it and get my diploma, and I did just that," Rhonda said.

Rhonda completed a variety of Hadley High School classes, including a cluster of food service courses. She excelled in "Life Science," "Typing and Keyboarding," "Managing Personal Finances" and "Finding Employment." Her favorite course topics included psychology and math.

Now that Rhonda has accomplished her academic goal, her vocational goal is to become a teacher for people with disabilities.

Megan Crannick, Missouri

Megan CrannickMegan Crannick was in high school when she began experiencing difficulty with her vision. For the next academic year, Megan became overwhelmed and lost her desire to return to school and graduate. In 2011, at age 19, she was officially diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri, a brain condition that causes increased pressure in the skull. In September 2012, Megan underwent brain surgery which, unfortunately, further damaged her eyesight. She then attempted to study for the GED test, but reading the material and securing transportation to class became a struggle.

In 2013, Megan's luck began to change. Her YMCA literacy tutor received an email from her rehabilitation counselor, who had discovered Hadley. Despite moments when she wanted to give up, Megan's tutor continued to believe in her.

Megan's favorite Hadley courses were "Personality Psychology," "Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness" and Spanish. She said the "Personality Psychology" class taught her how to understand others and become more open minded; the Self-Esteem course helped her to avoid depression and the Spanish course was interesting because she plans to learn several languages and visit a Spanish-speaking country in the future. Vocational goals include becoming an addictions counselor and/or an attorney.

"It took me 2 years and 3 months to graduate from the program. I am very honored to be a Hadley graduate, and I am proud to say I graduated from the program with a 4.0," she said.

Xiomara Diaz Pineda, California

Xiomara Diaz PinedaXiomara Diaz Pineda accomplished what she once thought was an impossibility: At age 39, she received her high school diploma.

Her journey started at age 12, when, after a diagnosis of leukemia, she started developing cataracts and "something hard – like calcium" started blocking her sight. No one could say definitively whether the vision issues were related to the cancer. All Xiomara knew was that by 10th grade, her conditioned worsened to the point where she had to drop out of school.

What followed was a series of moves – from Texas back to her hometown of Mexico City, where they could find more support from relatives. In 2001, the family moved back to the U.S. – this time to Oklahoma. A cousin told Xiomara about Hadley and she was finally able to get back on an academic track, signing up for her first class at age 24. "I thought taking courses online was going to be a hard task, but actually, it was a lot easier than I thought."

Marriage, a baby (now age 10), divorce and other hurdles threatened to keep Xiomara from this achievement, but she never gave up, she said. "I wanted this – and now I can say that I did it."

Mark Duff, California

Mark DuffMark's story is familiar to anyone who has ever faced hardship in their lives. He was fortunate to access the right resources at the right time, helping him overcome hurdles and increase the odds of success.

Mark was born with Neurofibromatosis – Type 2, a condition that caused tumors to grow on his nervous system. The tumors eventually appeared on his optic and acoustic nerves, resulting in both visual and hearing impairments by the time he reached his 30th birthday.

Before he lost his vision, Mark was employed in manual labor and able to support his family. But once his eyesight started to deteriorate, he knew that lifestyle changes needed to be made.

"It wasn't until I became visually impaired and could no longer do manual labor that I realized how difficult it was to find gainful employment without a high school diploma and college degree," said Mark, who dropped out of high school at age 17.

Hadley was the lifeline he needed. He heard about the program while a student at the Helen Keller National Center for deaf/blind youths and adults in Sands Point, NY. After enrolling, he completed his diploma at age 37 and is now planning to continue his education at a local college through Hadley's Adult Continuing Education (ACE).

Mark has enjoyed all of the courses he has taken at Hadley – especially Economics, American Government and U.S. History. "I'm proud that I have finally earned my diploma and know that becoming visually impaired forced me to take my education seriously. I can now show that through all of my adversities, I can still accomplish what I set my mind to."

Martin Frazier, Florida

Martin FrazierMartin started losing his eyesight in 2011, and dropped out of school in the ninth grade. What followed was a succession of part-time jobs, partying and fleeting friendships.

"I was always a social person, so the money I made was used to party and travel with friends," Martin admits. He readily concedes that his habits distracted him from education and school was no longer the priority that it once was. Years passed, and along with the onset of various medical problems came a crippling depression. "I had no clue how I was going to advance without getting the credits for my diploma. I knew I had to evaluate what I wanted to do with my life."

His finally did some research and came upon Hadley. He was able to take advantage of various visually impaired programs in his area and started to live independently, devoting more time and attention to his studies. "I had the courage to do it because I was blind now and knew for sure that this would finally help me in the long run"

Martin enjoyed the History, Basic English Skills and Science courses, and he appreciated the support and encouragement of his teachers and the staff. He plans to enroll in college when he moves to New York City this year. "I am very grateful to Hadley for helping me get to where I needed to be".

Brittany Gaines, California

Brittany GainesBrittany Gaines has cerebral palsy; is quadriplegic; has a speech impediment and is legally blind. As Brittany progressed through her local public school system, the curriculum became more difficult for her to complete without many assistive accommodations. Refusing to fall short of her goals, Brittany turned to Hadley.

"Hadley's courses are every bit if not more challenging than those offered in public schools. But Hadley presented the materials in a format that helped give me the access I needed. My favorite course was math. With the strong support of my dedicated family and assistants, I was not only able to earn my high school diploma, but I graduated with a 3.83 GPA!"

With a Hadley High School diploma under her belt, Brittany plans to attend college and work toward becoming a guidance counselor. Her goal is to help others with disabilities overcome barriers to achieve their dreams—just as she did!

Mauricio Galvan, Texas

Mauricio GalvanSeven years ago, Mauricio Galvan lost his sight, due to a condition that is similar to macular degeneration.

Unable to earn a high school diploma in his late teens, Mauricio moved from California to Texas, where he first learned about Hadley through the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.

Mauricio credits his kind and helpful Hadley instructors for assisting him to persevere through his high school curriculum. His favorite courses involved learning to read braille, and he now plans to continue his braille studies through Hadley's Adult Continuing Education Program.

"Receiving my diploma helped me to be more confident and complete a part of my life that I needed to finish," Mauricio said.

Gary Griffin, Indiana

Gary GriffinGary Griffin's vision decreased dramatically when he was eight years old, due to retinal scarring, with gradual deterioration over the years. Gary also has hearing loss in one ear.

At 16, Gary left high school and went to work on a farm the very next day. He continued farm work until 1999, when he felt he simply could not perform such labor any longer. Eventually, a friend told him about vocational rehabilitation, where he learned about Hadley. He began taking high school courses to keep his mind active and to help him decide what to pursue in life. In 2014, Gary was the winner of Hadley's prestigious Richard Kinney Challenge of Living Award.

Today, Gary enjoys charity fundraising, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding and interacting with the roosters and hens that share his property.

"I am an outdoors kind of guy, but oddly enough, I really enjoyed learning how to use an abacus, and I also enjoyed the poetry class, of all things. I found it was a good way to clear my mind of all the clutter, and see what lay behind it. I was 52 before I graduated, but I am certain I still have a bright future ahead," he said.

Tyre'id Hodges, California

Tyre'id HodgesTyre'id Hodges was born with a tumor behind his left eye that, once excised, led to the removal of the eye itself. Soon after, his right eye degenerated. Simultaneously, Tyre'id was contending with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. These health complications, unfortunately, led him to be ridiculed by his peers. Eventually, Tyre'id left school before he could earn his high school diploma.

Years later, while discussing a GED program with a friend, he learned how Hadley could help him to achieve a high school diploma, tuition free.

Tyre'id credits his success at Hadley to his compassionate teachers and to the large print and audiocassette formats of the courses he studied. He most enjoyed "Life Science," "Food Preparation" and "Business Communications." Future goals include pursuing higher education at a Messianic Jewish Seminary to become a better leader for his Messianic Congregation.

About earning his high school diploma, Tyre'id related, "It really gives me a sense of accomplishment, and my two daughters, Tasha and Robin can look upon their father with pride. Furthermore, it has helped me tremendously, in that my self-esteem has improved greatly and now I believe that I can do just about anything I put my mind to."

Drake Hollingshead, Nevada

Born with a visual impairment, Drake Hollingshead credits his mother for seeking out the tools he would need to lead a productive and meaningful life.

"I was so lucky to have a mother who had natural instincts of how to help me…Education is very important to my family and I love learning, he said.

When he was younger, Drake attended the Kansas State School for the Blind, but his family later moved and the education options in his new district were more limited. So, he moved again – this time to Las Vegas, where he currently lives with his grandmother and aunt, and can access better services.

He also turned to Hadley to complete his senior year. "All of the courses were challenging and well-presented. I am most impressed with my teachers…I enjoyed Literature and American Government with Pam Bortz and Julie Lee Kay. And while math classes were not my favorite, Leanne Pasinski was amazing," he said. "I'm just so proud of myself for finishing and receiving my high school diploma."

As for future goals, Drake hopes to parlay his love of music into a career in the music industry. He plans to attend Dark Horse Recording Studio in Nashville to become certified as a sound board engineer.

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Ronald J. Iorio, Illinois

Ronald J. IorioRonald Iorio was born blind in his right eye and with very little vision in his left eye. In the late 1960s, his teen years, Ron faced several hardships. A high school diploma seemed out of reach, even though he had used large print textbooks that his mother procured for him. Upon his mother's passing when he was 16, Ron moved to a different part of the city to live with his biological father and was enrolled in a new high school. In his new environment, Ron completed nearly two years of high school and worked part-time until personal and academic obstacles became too difficult, and he decided to leave school and live on his own. Soon afterward, he was able to turn his part-time job into a full-time opportunity, packing and shipping orders.

Throughout the years, Ron received counseling and was encouraged to obtain his high school diploma; however, he did not want to return to a high school classroom. Then, in 2012, Ron heard about Hadley's High School Program, via a radio commercial.

Ron contacted Hadley and was impressed that he would be allowed to work at his own pace. He found the large print books easy to read and the course material simple to follow. To his surprise, he began to earn A's, with science courses being his favorite. Because Ron is over age 65, he earned the distinction of being one of Hadley's "Golden Graduates."

Presently, Ron is seeking part-time employment. In his free time, he plays drums and has performed with several bands throughout his life. He also plays drums with an adult rock group at the School of Rock.

When asked how he feels about earning his high school diploma, Ron said, "I feel great about this; I finally did it! Thank you to Hadley for making it possible!"

Krystal L. Johnson, Texas

Krystal L. JohnsonIn childhood, Krystal Johnson developed uveitis, a condition caused by an autoimmune disorder, which led to the repeated development of cataracts, despite corrective surgeries. Although Krystal's school accommodated her needs with assistive tools, such as magnifiers and large print books, she was embarrassed by her disability and chose not to continue her high school education.

In 2010, Krystal enrolled at Hadley. Eventually, she lost more of her vision, causing her to become frustrated and abandon her studies. In September 2014, Krystal was in a serious auto accident, which left her in critical condition and unable to walk for three months. The traumatic incident motivated Krystal to re-evaluate her priorities. She intensified her academic focus and earned her high school diploma in January 2016.

"Now that I've received my High School diploma through Hadley, I feel so awesome, happy, and I am so extremely proud of myself for finally completing and accomplishing a goal which I not only started, but finished! I feel like a champion because I challenged myself and won," she said.

Some of Krystal's favorite course topics were psychology, finance, law and health. Her future plans include completing a 12-month cosmetology program and earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology. Career goals include becoming a counselor and a journalist.

Harmony Kren, Indiana

Harmony KrenHarmony was just 12 months old when she lost her sight to bilateral retina blastoma and completely blind by 18 months. "I've always believed that going blind at such an early age made my life simpler…Vision wasn't something I ever had, so I don't miss it. Blindness has just always been part of who I am."

Education was not a priority in her family, so Harmony didn't start high school until the day after she turned 18. Before that, she did not have a single day of formal schooling, even though she ached to attend. "I couldn't fix it anyway, so I just pretended it didn't bother me…but for a lot of years, I simply felt bad for myself and did nothing because I couldn't find a place to start."

Then, a roommate at guide dog training told her about Hadley and the online high school program. She was genuinely excited – but terrified, too. (It took another five months for her to muster the courage to enroll).

With every assignment, Harmony was certain she failed. When she started actually getting good grades, she was gripped by a different sort of fear. "I'd start an assignment and quit in the middle because I just knew that I wouldn't be able to do it well enough to get an A….Gradually, I gained the confidence to do my assignments to the best of my abilities and stop and ask for help when I needed it."

She ticks off some of her favorite classes, including Abacus 1 ("by far the most challenging") and Elements of Poetry ("most fun") and cites High School coordinator Karen Woodfork for her support and inspiration. "She even called me a few times just to tell me I was doing well and to keep up the good work."

And now, despite being counted out from the beginning, Harmony has crossed the finish line. "Being able to show my 14-year-old daughter that you can complete anything you set your mind to, no matter how impossible it might seem at times, is absolutely priceless to me. I've never been more proud."

Courtney McCrea, South Carolina

Courtney is from South Carolina and has been vision impaired from birth. She was born with two hereditary conditions -- myopia and retinal dystrophy –but has always maintained a positive outlook on life.

"I have learned not to put myself in a box. I don't allow others to pity me or take away my independence. I cook, clean, travel and I'm a great mother. I have romance in my life and I'm no stranger to hard work," she says proudly.

Personal and health issues originally kept her from obtaining her diploma, but her experience with Hadley has given her the confidence she needed to succeed. With the encouragement and scheduling flexibility of Hadley's instructors and staff, she was able to satisfy her goal of being a mother first, as well as a student. "I've proven to my children that no matter what challenges in this world you face, with love, support, hard work and trust in God, there's nothing you can't do," she explained.

With her diploma in hand, she is eager to build a successful career as well as a solid family life. "I want to be the best mother I can be," said Courtney, who plans to marry her fiancé, whom she calls the "best father" in the world. "We plan to live, laugh and love out loud."

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Vicki McTigue, Maine

Vicki McTigueHadley High School graduate, Vicki McTigue, was born with a visual impairment that causes her eyes to continue to focus and refocus, which she describes as making them appear to be "flickering." As a result, Vicki was uncomfortable in the public school system and felt she needed more one-on-one attention to grasp her studies.

Vicki was determined to earn her high school diploma through Hadley, in honor of her grandmother's memory, because she was Vicki's most ardent supporter.

Vicki thoroughly enjoyed her math and computer-oriented courses—her favorite being "Internet: Beyond the Basics." Since graduating, she has been working on a quilting project with her mother and visiting with friends.

"Since I received my diploma, it has been a moral victory for me. It made me very proud to be able to show my friends and family that I worked hard and succeeded," she said. "I hope to continue to grow as a person, and continue to try new things I thought I would never be able to do."

Brandi Meitzler, Mississippi

Brandi MeitzlerBrandi Meitzler was born in Mississippi and diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 7. Just before her senior year at the Mississippi School for the Blind, Brandi had a complicated pregnancy which caused her to drop out of high school. In December of 2010, Brandi became a full-time mother, fearing that she would never graduate.

"A couple of years later, I came across an online article about Hadley and I decided to check it out," she recalled. "The idea of being able to get my diploma at home sounded perfect to me, so I decided to enroll."

Her enthusiasm soared when she received the materials for her first course. Her favorite course was Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness. "All of my instructors were great and they always gave me encouragement to keep striving towards my goals."

In September of 2015, just before completing the Hadley program, Brandi had her left eye removed and struggled with other medical complications. She was discouraged that her deteriorating health would keep her from the finish line. "My family and friends encouraged me to keep going and when I finally submitted my last assignment, the smile on my face was priceless," she said.

"It was a great feeling to finally hold that diploma in my hands and know that, despite all of the obstacles, I did it."

Emmanio Mesidor, Florida

Emmanio MesidorEmmanio was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease, at age 16, making it extremely difficult for him to pass the standardized tests that his state required in order to receive a high school diploma. When he sought services from a local Lighthouse for the Blind, his case worker recommended Hadley as an educational resource.

At Hadley, Emmanio found all of his courses to be enjoyable, and says he learned a lot from each one. "Earning this diploma means a lot to me, and I feel very happy. Receiving my diploma has helped improve the quality of my life."

"I wanted….to get my high school diploma so that I can go to college and get a degree in computer technology and engineering." Emmanio shares that it is his passion to become a computer technician so he can repair and maintain computers and servers. "I am very comfortable when I'm building or configuring new hardware. And also, I'll be able to install and update software packages, and I'll be able to create and maintain computer networks." It is Emmanio's dream to have a good job in the computer field and be able to support his family.

Sherri Morales, Texas

Sherri MoralesHadley High School graduate, Sherri Morales, was born legally blind. Upon entering the 9th grade, she struggled in her classwork because she could not see the blackboard or overhead projector. Frustrated, she quit school after three months.

For nearly 28 years, Sherri worked periodically as a Certified Nursing Assistant in a nursing home while raising her children, three of whom have special needs.

Following in her sister's footsteps, Sherri began to take classes at Hadley. She said, "I was so excited to find out that there was a school where I could get my high school diploma and, better yet, it was free. I was given a second chance to correct a mistake I had made by quitting all those years ago."

Today, at age 55, Sherri is transitioning to an office environment career. She spends her free time swimming and interacting with her seven children, five grandchildren, five dogs and 13 cats.

Sherri credits her helpful Hadley instructors with providing the inspiration she needed to graduate. She wants others to know that, despite their age or adversity, completing an education is a decision they will never regret.

Michael J. Rodgerson, Florida

Michael J. RodgersonMichael Rodgerson lost his sight at age 5, due to a tumor removal that damaged his optic nerves. While in his late teens, Michael had completed most of his high school courses at a brick and mortar school for the deafblind; however, his grades were poor, and he was several credits short of earning a diploma. Fortunately, a fellow student told Michael about Hadley.

Michael appreciated his Hadley instructors, relating that they were helpful and kind. English was one of his favorite courses because it reinforced material he already knew, while teaching him grammar and terminology that he did not know. He also enjoyed the "Life Science" course, learning about plants, animals and microbes. He found the material to be fascinating and entirely new to him.

Future plans include participating in a business program at a rehabilitation center for the blind. In his free time, Michael enjoys karate, guitar, walking and learning astronomy and psychology.

When asked what life lessons his Hadley experience taught him, Michael said, "If you work hard and focus, you'll succeed at whatever you are aiming for."

Nicole Rogers, Texas

Nicole RogersNicole Rogers, age 47, has been diagnosed with an unknown type of blindness for almost half of her life. A single mother of two children, Nicole also juggles being a cosmetologist and business owner.

Her vision issues have not stopped her from being a success, but it was important for her to set a good example to her children by attaining her high school diploma and college degree.

Initially, Nicole felt like she couldn't find time to get her GED, but she soon discovered that she could not pursue any post-secondary education without that one crucial credential. She connected with a college counselor, also visually impaired, who shared all of Hadley's offerings and spurred her on to take the first step to earn her high school diploma through Hadley.

"The staff at the Hadley Institute for the Blind was very helpful and took the time to provide me with all the information I needed to complete my high school diploma," Nicole said. "There was not one subject that I did not enjoy and every one of my instructors was helpful."

Nicole is optimistic about her future and is looking forward to continuing her education with more Hadley courses.

Jaimie Scarrow, Arkansas

Jaimie Scarrow

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Daniel Scott Russell, Georgia

Daniel Scott RussellDaniel Russell's mother discovered Hadley by searching online for a schooling option for him. He was high school age but focused on non-accredited home schooling coursework. At Hadley, Daniel found that the course print was large enough to read with a magnifier, allowing him to concentrate on the content itself, rather than struggling to identify words. To Daniel, earning a high school diploma represented achieving a sense of normalcy during a time when his sighted peers were learning to drive.

Daniel related that he also felt a diploma was paramount in order to secure a "decent job," thus ensuring his future independence. He would not allow being legally blind to deter him from accomplishing his personal goals and credits his Hadley instructors for their encouragement.

Daniel's favorite courses were "World History" and "Typing and Keyboarding." In his typing course, Daniel learned to type by touch, which helped to solidify his resolve to find work in the computer field.

"My plans for the future are to marry the woman of my dreams this June and find a job working with computers. I won't let anything hold me back from enjoying life as an intelligent, healthy and proud man that just so happens to be legally blind."

Samantha Shipman, California

Samantha ShipmanSamantha Shipman faced several obstacles on the way toward earning her high school diploma. She was born blind, due to an eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). She weighed just over one pound at birth and endured multiple surgeries throughout her childhood. Challenges she faced in public high school included bullying and struggling to keep up with her sighted peers. Then, at age 18, instead of earning her high school diploma, Samantha faced another health issue—glaucoma, for which she needed emergency surgery and several treatments to relieve painful eye pressure. The treatments further reduced her light perception. Although she did not earn her high school diploma in her late teens, she heard about Hadley not long thereafter.

"I love Hadley for its individualized and self-paced program," she said. "One of the things that I love most about Hadley was that they meet you academically wherever you are."

In September 2015, Samantha was able to attend The National Statler Center in Buffalo, New York. It provides business and hospitality training for people with disabilities nationwide. She completed her remaining Hadley High School courses in one week, in order to begin her studies with Statler Center's next incoming class.

Now that Samantha has a Hadley High School Diploma and The National Statler Center Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals and Contact Center Training, she plans to seek employment in the customer service field. Eventually, she would like to return to school to study law; marriage and family therapy; rehabilitation of people with vision loss; or psychology, researching both human and canine behavior.

Theresa Shortridge, Ohio

Theresa ShortridgeDue to a relocation in her teen years, Theresa Shortridge left high school during her senior year.

Theresa then started a family of five, four of whom were adopted from her sister. Theresa was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 29 and later was diagnosed with macular edema and macular degeneration. It was at a support group for people living with visual impairment that she first learned about Hadley's High School Program.

At Hadley, Theresa took braille courses in preparation for the possibility of losing her vision. Although they were a challenge, her favorite Hadley courses were braille.

Retinitis pigmentosa runs in Theresa's family, and she has a niece with the same diagnosis. She now hopes to use her newfound knowledge to teach her how to read braille.

"I finally got my diploma at the age of 57 and it is a great source of pride," she said.

Michael Smith, Washington

Michael Smith struggled with visual limitations his entire life, but it was a move to Arizona senior year that really knocked him off course. Credits from his previous school in California did not transfer, and the large print textbooks and study materials were not available. Desperately in need of assisted technology and computer instruction, Michael fell further behind in his homework, became discouraged, and dropped out of school.

Michael always wanted to complete his GED, but finances, his job and a new wife and child intruded on his time. There were few options available until he heard about Hadley's on-line program. Family and friends in the blind community encouraged him to pursue his dream, and with their support he was able to accomplish "one of the most rewarding moments of my life."

More than anyone, though, Michael credits his wife with turning his life around. "Brandi made it her mission to see me become a high school graduate. She put her own education on hold and gave me the opportunity to focus solely on school. It was a selfless act that I will never be able to repay," he said.

Michael is excited about the future, and plans on attending college to study computer engineering.

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Stuart Soulek, California

Stuart SoulekWhen he fell behind in his school work, Hadley offered a lifeline, said Stuart Soulek of Downey, CA. The teachers and staff offered the unique flexibility and creativity he needed to attain his diploma in a timely manner – an accommodation that he doesn't take for granted. "Every Hadley teacher helped put me in the positive position I am in now. Hadley requires determination and willingness, and I was able to complete the program with those two mindsets."

English and Chess were his favorite classes and he realized that the principles he learned in the classroom could easily translate to the workforce. Stuart acquired critical thinking and analysis skills that he hopes can be applied to a successful career in sales. "When I finished Hadley, I was happy…to experience warm feelings of accomplishment."

Fawad Tariq, Illinois

Fawad TariqHadley helped Fawad turn the seemingly impossible into a reality.

Because of health problems, Fawad had to drop out of Walter Payton Prep School in Chicago only four credits short of his diploma. While recuperating after multiple hospital stays, his high school counselors were able to guide him to Hadley's on-line curriculum. "I could not believe the fact that I would be able to complete my high school education staying at home," he said.

Fawad enjoyed all of his Hadley courses, including "American Government" and "Finding Employment." He acquired more life skills, such as learning how to conduct a successful job search. "As a blind person, I did not know that there were many opportunities for me to find employment. My instructors provided me with detailed explanations about connecting with different people that would guide me toward achieving my career choice."

Finishing high school is the first step toward his ultimate ambition of becoming a teacher. Education may be a right in this country, but it is also a privilege and he would like everyone have access to exceptional resources. "Thanks to Hadley School for helping blind and visually impaired students achieve their educational goals."

Joy Lynn Turner, Ohio

Joy Lynn TurnerJoy Lynn Turner was born legally blind 63 years ago. As a youngster, she began her academic career in public school using magnifying glasses. However, her vision continued to weaken in both eyes throughout the years. By age 15, Joy had completely lost sight in her left eye because of glaucoma and dropped out of school at 18. Although she was able to earn a GED, Joy longed for an actual high school diploma.

Joy enrolled at Hadley to learn braille. However, at age 28, she lost her sight completely, due to complications from glaucoma and cataracts. After reading an article in Connection, Hadley's student newsletter, Joy learned that she could still earn her high school diploma. She already had taken half the number of courses necessary to graduate. Continuing her studies, Joy earned her diploma in 2015.

During this time, Joy decided to join her church choir. With her mother and Hadley's help, she was able to transcribe songs into braille so that she could sing along with her group.

"My main goal is to let people know that it doesn't matter how old you are, anyone can learn braille. It's a very good skill that will help you so much in life. I would advise anyone who is visually impaired to take Hadley courses," she said.

Tameka Whitehead, North Carolina

Tameka WhiteheadTameka Whitehead lost her sight in 9th grade and did not continue with her high school studies.

Several years later, she decided to contact Central Piedmont Community College to inquire how a blind person could earn a high school diploma. It was through Central Piedmont that she learned about Hadley and, after making contact, began her studies almost immediately thereafter.

Tameka took courses in math, business communications, foods, psychology and health. She credits her instructors for helping her to persevere through the curriculum.

She said, "Hadley helped me to learn to live again. Getting my diploma means everything to me. I can do anything!"

Tameka's future plans include working at a BB&T Bank and taking courses in billing and medical coding.

Sandrajean Zahar, Texas

Sandrajean ZaharSandrajean Zahar's road toward a high school diploma was a bumpy, but meaningful one. When she was high school age, Sandrajean eloped with her high school sweetheart, who was leaving for the Vietnam War. At that time, married teens were not permitted to remain in traditional high school, and she was not interested in earning a GED.

Despite this setback, Sandrajean worked as a Practical Nurse; then with the New York City Board of Education, serving people with disabilities. Ironically, in 1995, she began to experience sight loss. After 13 surgeries, due to diabetic retinopathy and co-occurring glaucoma, she continued to experience low vision.

She continued to work at the Board of Education for years after her diagnosis, and it was through the Library of Congress that she first heard about Hadley's High School Program.

Sandrajean's favorite Hadley courses were history related, as she collected antique history books and always maintained an interest in her family's genealogy. She persevered to earn a Hadley High School Diploma despite four major moves, the death of her parents and a cancer diagnosis. Because Sandrajean is over age 65, she has earned the distinction of being one of Hadley's "Golden Graduates."

Sandrajean has seven grandchildren, three of whom are autistic. Part of her motivation to graduate from Hadley included being an example for them.

"I can tell them grandma is a high school graduate. It's never too late," she said.

Judith Zamora, California

Judith ZamoraJudith Zamora had just completed trade school as a bilingual secretary when she developed diabetic retinopathy. She attempted to earn a high school diploma but, because of her vision loss, was too depressed to continue. Judith then learned about Hadley's High School Program from a counselor at the Braille Institute, where she was taking computer classes.

Although Hadley's math courses were a challenge, Judith found them to be her favorite subject area, particularly algebra. She also appreciated the computer courses, as she is always interested in new technology. Judith plans to continue her studies through Hadley's Adult Continuing Education Program.

Thanks to Hadley, Judith is able to undertake even greater academic ambitions. Currently, she is searching for a college where she can pursue a career as a bilingual translator.

"Hadley opened up a new door for me. The high school diploma means I enjoyed a higher level of education," she said. "It thrills me to know that I am one step closer towards achieving a new goal."

Manuel Zavala, Texas

Manuel ZavalaTwo challenges kept Manuel Zavala from graduating high school. At age 16, he left school to provide for his family and then, as a result of diabetes, lost his sight.

After working at the West Texas Lighthouse for the Blind for several years, Manuel was promoted to an office position. However, in order to maintain his new career, he was counseled that he must return to school and also advised that he could earn his high school diploma from Hadley.

Once enrolled, Manuel knew the opportunity would change his life. He enjoyed his studies and felt he learned a great deal about a variety of subjects. Math was his favorite course due, in part, to his helpful instructor.

"Earning my diploma was a huge accomplishment for me since this has opened the door to a brighter future," he said. "I am currently enrolled in college and well on my way to earning a degree in business. By earning my degree, I feel that I will have a great career at my current job."

Wayne Eberson, New York

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Angelique Garcia, New York

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Jeremiah E. Goska, Virginia

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Brenda Ponce, Florida

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Victoria Rodriguez, New York

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John Sutay, Connecticut

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