Blind Naperville student says Lions-funded trip helped her build independence
A high school junior who got an $8,000 scholarship to attend a special training program for blind students reported Tuesday to the club that made her learning experience possible.
Amy Bosko of Naperville told her donor, the Naperville Noon Lions Club, that she gained independence, navigational experience and cooking skills from the eight weeks she spent this summer at the Blind Inc. PREP program in Minneapolis.
"It definitely showed me the things I'm going to need to know," she said.
Amy gave her report over a pizza lunch at Braconi's on Tuesday, her 17th birthday, just minutes after she finished taking the ACT college entrance exam. Amy also shared stories of the murder mystery theater production she recently appeared in, sinking her face into a plate of spaghetti as she acted the role of the murdered character, and of the musical "Little Shop of Horrors," for which she's practicing for now.
But when she was in Minneapolis in the PREP, or postsecondary readiness and empowerment program, she lived with two roommates and a teacher in a dormlike setting.
She took classes on college skills and technology -- like the JAWS (Job Access With Speech) screen reader she bought for $100 during her trip. And she stocked up on travel tips, cooking experience and household management skills.
After one quick lesson on how to walk from the dorm to the classroom building, Amy told Lions Club members the students were instructed to stay in groups and navigate themselves. Amy and her classmates got lost a few times, but with trial and error, they found their way. Even when she wanted to go shopping, the response from staff members wasn't "I'll take you," but "Find your way."
These lessons proved Amy doesn't always need the help of a full-sighted person -- just her walking stick and her independence.
"Those kinds of skills just gave me a lot more confidence," Amy said.
When it came time to cook, Amy and her roommates decided they wanted to do better than throwing together a ready-made meal. Anyone can do that, they thought. So they tossed aside boxed dinners and concocted their own spices and marinades.
"That was definitely a cool skill I learned," she said.
Since then, Amy has kept cooking -- something her mother, Michelle Michalski, said she never really did before her summer away.
Michalski said the PREP program was another step on Amy's journey to the independence she'll need to attend college. She's hoping to study music education and musical theater in Boston or somewhere on the East coast.
Amy has been blind since birth because of congenital cataracts with secondary glaucoma. She inherited the condition through her mother after her maternal grandmother contracted a measles virus, which can damage eyesight.