Blind class president at Providence Hall opens the eyes of peers
Feb 06, 2020 12:17PM
By Jet Burnham
Who is speaking? Student government representatives get training in blind etiquette. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
It is frustrating to eighth grade class president Lexi Greene when friends call out to her as they pass by in the hallways of Providence Hall Middle School. Because she is blind, Lexi doesn’t know who is saying “hi” if they don’t identify themselves. There are many things her peers don't understand about being blind so Lexi taught a class on blind etiquette to her fellow student government officers.
“I wanted them to learn what it is like to be blind,” Lexi said.
Teacher of the Visually Impaired Jenny Hooper said people often don’t realize they are making things harder for a blind person.
“A lot of people will come up to someone who's blind and say ‘guess who!’ Hooper said. “That's not nice because it puts them on the spot — they're worried that they'll be offending someone if they don't guess right.”
Hooper said Lexi has always been an advocate for herself.
“She has the best sense of humor,” Hooper said. “She doesn't get offended or get upset easily. She's really just patient and understanding with people. She's just a really good advocate for including everyone and for having a positive attitude.”
At an after-school meeting, student government representatives experienced some of what Lexi deals with each day. While blind-folded, they had to identify items by touch and to identify who in the room was speaking to them. They learned how helpful it is for Lexi when they identify themselves entering the room, and let her know where they are sitting.
Lexi showed her peers how she uses her sight cane to navigate her environment and to identify textural clues. Students also got a crash course in Braille and were taught to be careful around Braille printed papers.
“Sometimes if you even put paper on top of Braille, someone doesn't realize there's Braille under there, and then maybe put something heavy on top of it,” Hooper said. “It squishes it and then it's hard to read.”
Student government adviser Judy Balser said the crash course was helpful for the students. She knows many people avoid a person with a disability because they don't know what would help or offend them. She said since the blind training, students are more respectful of Lexi. They say hello and acknowledge her in the ways she taught them. They recognize her humor and personality.
“It's as if their minds have opened up and now they ‘see’ her instead of avoiding her,” Balser said. “They are accepting of her and want her to be involved.”
Lexi participates in all student government activities from planning events to creating activity posters.
“My favorite part is helping out with the dances and Spirit Weeks,” Lexi said.
She said she brings a different perspective to the leadership group.
“I bring fun, I bring life — being really funny and just helping out,” she said.
Brynlie Montgomery serves as an executive on student council and is a friend of Lexi’s.
“She is very, very hard working,” Brynlie said of Lexi. “She's very smart and talented and makes everybody laugh.”
Lexi was adopted from China when she was six years old. Hooper has worked with Lexi for the last three years. She said her character — diligence, willingness to work hard, independence, humor, and kindness — are why the student body voted Lexi as class president this year and sixth grade class president two years ago.
“The fact that they elected her — it wasn't a pity thing,” Hooper said. “It was truly an accolade to how kind she is to everyone. She is a friend to everyone and she knows people.”
Lexi uses her interests and talents in art, drama, and singing to benefit her school and community. She even sang the national anthem at her brother’s basketball game.
“She's not scared to use her talents and she's not scared to trying things,” Hooper said. “If Lexi has an opportunity to do something, she just takes it. She doesn't let things scare off.”
This year, Lexi is also on the school’s yearbook staff where she advocates for alternative designs to make the book more accessible to all students. This year’s book will have Braille headlines and tactile elements on the front cover.
“They want the whole school to be able to experience yearbook by more than just sight,” Hooper said. “They figured if they made something tactile, that there were other kids with disabilities or who would like to feel something other than just see it. And so they wanted to include those kids.”
Balser said Lexi sets a good example for the student body.
“She has proven she really is capable of anything,” Balser said.