Moving to the rural northern Michigan community of Mancelona was a tremendous challenge for Ashlee and her family. Ashlee was born with a visual impairment and diagnosed as legally blind. As a new student, with unique challenges, Ashlee admits that it was hard to make friends. Learning this early in her experience in Mancelona, CIS staff matched an adult mentor with Ashlee and they met weekly during the school day. That was the first of many experiences Ashlee had with CIS.
In fifth grade, Ashlee began to develop an interest in Japanese-influenced animation, Anime. She developed and led a CIS After-school Anime Club. Students met weekly to explore the genre which included watching short films, discussing characters and plots, and learning Japanese pop songs. With the support of CIS staff, Ashlee worked through the ups and downs of leadership and inspired a group of students for much of the school year. Building on her middle school success, Ashlee continued to lead a CIS After-School Anime group her freshman year. Ashlee is proud of the success of both of these groups and the relationships that developed. She remains friends with these students today.
Ashlee confesses that for a long time, it was difficult for her to admit she had worries or concerns about the many challenges she has faced because of visual impairment. Working closely with her school-day teachers, CIS staff ensured her involvement in the CIS After-School Program was tailored to meet her needs. In addition to homework help and web-based coursework, the CIS After-School Program supported and staffed alternative fitness activities to accommodate Ashlee’s impairment. “CIS is always there for me and has helped me catch up with work.”
It has been Ashlee’s life-long goal to attend college. Over the years, she and her classmates have participated in several CIS coordinated college visits and college/career fairs. Disappointed with the results of her first ACT exam, Ashlee turned to CIS for help. The additional tutoring paid off when Ashlee’s score improved by four points. Energized by the improved score, and with the help of the CIS site coordinator, Ashlee and her family successfully navigated the financial aid and college application process. The winter of her senior year, Ashlee was accepted for admission by her first-choice college.
Ashlee describes her CIS family as a blessing: “I have had so many wonderful opportunities to create my own voice. The CIS [team] always encourages me and everyone is patient as I try to work things out.”