Entering high school can definitely be very nerve-wracking for anyone, including those of us who are blind or low vision. There are a lot of challenges you will face and moments that might be scary. But, trust me—you can improve your high school years. You can join programs and clubs that will make your high school experience way more interesting and can help you find your people. But do you know how to determine what programs or clubs you should join? And do you know how to make the programs or clubs accessible?
I’m here to tell you that high school programs and clubs can be for everyone no matter whether you are shy or outgoing. You have a place.
Choosing a Club
There comes a time when you have to decide which activities or clubs you will enjoy most, even if you feel left out or if you don’t fit in with others. The issue is likely that you haven’t found the right group yet.
When you are looking for clubs and programs to join, start with looking at what your interests are, and try to join clubs that match what you like. At first, it was hard for me to pick which ones I wanted to be in. I would just stay to myself and do the classes that I was required to take—but that changed for me, and I hope it will for you.
Yes, it will likely be a challenge when you realize sighted peers in your new-to-you club might not look at you the same. Based on my own experiences, people will judge you based on your vision and decide what they think you can and can’t do even if they don’t know you. That might be another reason why you feel like you don’t fit in, but you have to find ways to work around that so you can still be happy and enjoy the things you want to participate in.
The first group I joined was Upward Bound, a program for me to get all the skills I need while I’m in high school as well as college readiness skills. Ever since I joined this program it opened up my thoughts to being involved in a lot of things and has changed some of my perspectives on the world itself.
I love everything about music. I’ve been in the band since 7th grade. During ninth grade, I tried to get involved with as many opportunities that had to do with music as I could. For example, I was in voice, dance club, the guitar club, and the rock band. They were all held every Friday, so I had to prioritize one over the others.
I am also honored to be in the National Honor Society, and I am on the student APH CareerConnect advisory committee.
Schoolwork started getting hard and it got difficult to balance all of the activities I was in; I had to make tough decisions. Along the way, you, too, will discover that you will have to pick and choose which clubs or programs you should drop if you are in too many. The criteria you should look at when you need to decide what to drop is what is best for you to stay in and what you would be willing to give up. For me, this was very hard. Although the other music clubs would’ve been easier to give up, I chose to stop band for various reasons. It meant a lot to me and really changed my life in middle school and now high school, but, unfortunately, it was what was best for me. It would only get more difficult, and I didn’t have the time to devote to it.
Another thing that can be challenging is figuring out what accommodations you need during your extracurricular activities and how to obtain them. The instructor may give you a print handout that you can’t see; what will you do? If you have a teacher for students who are visually impaired (TVI) or braillist, you can tell your instructors to email or contact your TVI or braillist to prepare the materials for you. But what if they don’t? Then it is your job to take the next step. You need to inform your TVI or braillist of what you need.
And what if the leaders/ instructors don’t give the materials to your TVI on time, or what if you don’t have a TVI available? Some of the alternatives I do is have the instructor or sponsor read material to me, help me write things down for small tasks, and ask peers for help. You might not be the closest friends with your peers in the groups, but you can always ask. There will be times when you won’t have an adult that you trust or that you are used to working with that can help you, so you will need to find out ways to help yourself in order to participate.
You will need to step out of your comfort zone so you can succeed. You should not let inadequate accommodations hold you back. I guarantee if there is a will, there is a way.
Ever since I opened up and started getting more involved with activities and clubs at my school, I have become more known and even got nominated to be on the school’s student advisory committee.
I hope that my story can inspire and help others strive for their dreams and have an amazing high school experience.