Approximately 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, and within that, 39 million are blind. Blindness can affect a person’s life in ways that might seem unbelievable to most. Nevertheless, two phenomenal visually impaired students, Yahya Abdikadir and Naima Hassan walk the halls of Apple Valley High School with their own story to tell.
An intelligent young man, Yahya is currently a sophomore at AVHS and stands out in more ways than one. He became visually impaired at the age of two because of a bombing that happened in Somalia, and has lived his life having obstacles that most people couldn’t understand.
Coming to the U.S in 2013 was a blast of new experiences and cultures. “I came to the U.S knowing English because my brother talked a lot in English to his friends and me. But I never talked to anyone because I was shy,” said Abdikadir. In Somalia he mainly kept to himself until he came to the States and started putting himself out there.
Another inspirational student, Naima is an Apple Valley High School senior that battles the difficulty of having language barriers and her loss of sight with an optimistic personality. “Being in AVHS has been fun and I enjoy talking to the teachers and listening to others,” says Naima Hassan. Although she is introverted, she enjoys learning and holding conversations.
Having language barriers is a struggle that both Yahya and Naima have experienced. Being shy is something that many can relate to. Naima, however, struggles with talking to others due to many factors that include her shyness. She continuously tries to conquer it by studying and learning in order to express her ideas to those around her. She also has many supportive teachers that continue to aid her in her lessons.
“I do have troubles talking with students in my class, because I can have a hard time understanding them sometimes and I’m also really shy,” says Naima, “but, teachers like Ms. Baggy and Melissa have helped answer questions I have to understand others better.”
Yahya Abdikadir, on the other hand, uses literature to help express his imagination and thoughts. “I enjoy writing about science fiction and fiction a lot because it’s something that interests me and that I enjoy reading about.”
They both use braille, which is a form of the alphabet that uses six dots to make up a cell, to communicate their stories on paper. Different countries have slight variations in their braille, however, most of the symbols and combinations are similar. Yahya uses a useful tool called an Apex, instead of a typewriter, to store files, send emails, and help in his research. It’s virtually a computer in the size and shape of a keyboard.
After coming to Apple Valley High School, Naima became one of the 10% worldwide that can read braille. “I couldn’t read braille when I came to America, but everyone around me helped me learn both braille and English,” says Naima.
“During my free time, I like to read, study, and talk to my family. My two oldest sisters are both in college so I enjoy listening to how their day was,” says Naima.
Furthermore, while people see Naima’s situation as an unbeatable obstacle, she approaches each day with a positive attitude and an acceptance of her situation. “I lost my sight when I was 9 years old in Somalia. I got sick in a part of my brain, but after my recovery I was still blind,” said Naima. “My family is a major help. They help me with tasks that I can’t do like getting groceries and such.”
Yahya’s supportive family, friends, and teachers have helped him understand the world better, and made it more manageable for him to do the same things that a person who can see can do. “In Somalia I had a para teacher who was also a student at the school that helped in my classes but only for a couple of hours.” said Abdikadir. In middle school Abdikadir had a para with him all the time for every class; now in high school when he needs the assistants, he has the help but is mainly independent.
Yahya’s parents also influenced him in doing his best in school and education. Especially when he felt an immense feeling of loneliness, his passion for academics seemed to dwindle; however, when he started to attend AVHS he met new people and discovered his love for writing.
Abdikadir not only learns from his peers, but teaches his fellow classmates and teachers. Mary Long, one of the teachers of students who are visually impaired, says, “It’s a mutual learning experience; he can teach me things I don’t know. I learn stuff from people who come from different cultures.”
Throughout their lives, both individuals have found ways to focus on themselves instead of the obstacles that they’ve been through. Whether it’s by finding an outlet in some sort of physical activity or immersing oneself in their studies, both Yahya and Naima have been able to bring a positive into their lives.
Naima spends a majority of her day in room 215B, along with many supportive teachers and peers. While an average student might avoid homework, Naima loves learning as much English and math as she can: “English […] helps me understand other people and talk better, while math is fun because it’s easy to understand.”
Yahya, however, enjoys running and playing video games with his older brother Samir. “I like running with my brother because he is my best friend and I like doing stuff with him” Abdikadir said.
“When I’m playing the PlayStation 4 with my brother we always play Call of Duty and Race Car Street and I try to memorize the controls on the controller and have my brother guide me through the game, which I would obviously win,” said Abdikadir.
He really enjoys the company and support from his teachers. He learns a lot from them and enjoys their classes, such as Mr. Martin’s Creative Writing course. “In Creative Writing I’m able to write short stories about different genres that I have interest in writing about, and it’s fun,” said Abdikadir.
As for his current love of reading, it has also seemed to be learned through time. In middle school he wasn’t interested in reading much, but when a teacher recommended The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Vey to him, he became intrigued by it and went to go talk to the author and really enjoyed the experience and knowledge he gained from him.
Both students are overcoming obstacles that seem insurmountable; however, to them it’s just another day. They bring their own perspective and personality, while not letting one thing in their lives define them. Apple Valley High School has most definitely felt the amount of positivity and optimism that both Naima and Yahye have, and AVHS would absolutely not be the same without them.