INSPIRING LIVES

I Know I Can Make It

India Ashley

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India Ashley was born with congenital glaucoma that left her with severe visually impairment. People told her she’d never make it in a regular classroom, and she certainly wouldn’t succeed in a college setting.

When she was young … she bought into those negative words.

“My limited vision also gave me a limited view of my options,” India said. “But my mom taught me to be independent and how to get around the world despite my eye condition. Now, with support and encouragement from my family, I’m pursuing my dream of working in childhood education.”

“I chose Broward College because I had relatives who graduated from here, and the campuses are convenient and accessible,” she said. “I like all the programs that they offer students and the accommodations I have received are great. They’re willing to help all students succeed.”

While her visual impairment makes it difficult to work and pay for school, India is very appreciative of the assistance she’s been provided through the Broward College Foundation. She merited a First Generation Scholarship from the Helios Education Foundation, which is dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals in Florida to succeed in postsecondary education. Early Childhood Education is one of three impact areas it supports.

India admits she must work harder than fully sighted people to be successful. “I have to work ten times harder to achieve my goals,” she said, “but that doesn’t stop me from trying. I rely on family to help me out at times, but I strive to be as independent as possible with the resources available to me.”

Photo: India Ashley

Now, at 34, India believes in herself and her future. This year she will earn her associate degree in early childhood education. Then she plans to pursue bachelor and master’s degrees in the same field. Her education will lay the groundwork to accomplish her dream of owning and operating a child care center for children with disabilities.

“I chose this major because I have a passion for helping children with special needs like myself,” she said. “I can relate to what they’re going through.”

“With visual impairment, the world is a lot smaller,” she said. “It’s hard to read basic signs and fonts, colors and pictures are not clear, and driving is simply not an option. I have to have materials in large print, extra time on tests, and a magnifier to help me see and read things. I also use special software on my laptop and a large print keyboard.”

She also noted that many people are uncomfortable with her disability. “It’s sometimes difficult to make new friends because people are not sure how to approach me,” she said. “I adapted by creating a nonprofit service organization for visually impaired individuals to feel safe.” Visions of Unity, the nonprofit she established, is a group of visually-impaired individuals who do service projects in the community; it also seeks to engage sighted individuals with the visually impaired to promote understanding of their disability.

“Because of Broward College, I can reach my goals,” she said. “I know I can make it with the support of God, my fiancé, family, friends, and the staff and faculty of Broward College. I’m able to earn my degree, strive harder, and never give up.”

 

Photo: India Ashley (center), Broward College President Gregory A. Haile (left), Sheila Ashley (right)
India Ashley (center) had the opportunity to meet Broward College President Gregory Adam Haile when she was a guest at the dinner prior to the Broward College Speaker Series presentation featuring Marlee Matlin on February 6. India’s aunt Sheila Ashley (right) drove her to the event.

 

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