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Meet Antonio Mendoza: CORE Program Graduate and ITR Cane Instructor

Antonio stands in the BISM training facility wearing a black collared shirt, holding his cane, and showing a joyous smile

Antonio’s life has taken a transformative turn – with the help of BISM.

Antonio was born with an eye condition known as Morning Glory Syndrome (MGS) and has been blind since he was an infant. As a toddler, Antonio attended a preschool for the Blind and acquired non-visual skills that he would build upon throughout his life. By the age of five, he had learned Braille and had begun using a cane to navigate the world around him independently.

As Antonio grew older, his desire to integrate into the wider community and assert his independence intensified. He constantly faced obstacles due to the low expectations of those around him and the misconceptions in the community about what blindness means – and does not mean. Despite Antonio attending a mainstream school, he continued to be confronted with limitations that hindered his autonomy. This, in turn, created a lack of confidence that left him frustrated.

Life, though, had a different plan for Antonio.

At the age of 19, he enrolled in BISM’s Adult Residential Program – CORE (Comprehensive, Orientation, Rehabilitation, and Empowerment Training).  CORE is an 8–10-month program designed to teach and improve a blind person’s non-visual skills, enhance independence, and build confidence and self-worth. Once enrolled, Antonio’s skills and confidence were put to the test, and he thrived as a result. With support from his instructors and participation in an array of confidence-building activities designed to push him beyond his comfort zone, Antonio reached new levels of independence and self-confidence.

Even with this newfound confidence, Antonio questioned what lay beyond graduation and what he should do with his newfound capabilities. Apparently, BISM’s CORE program had a huge impact on Antonio, and, during this time, he realized he wanted to “pay it forward” and teach other blind students the skills and empowerment he learned at BISM.

After graduation from the CORE program in 2018, Antonio moved to Minnesota to earn his National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) and become a cane travel instructor. This program is not for the faint at heart.  He had to complete eight hundred (800) hours of comprehensive training, involving observation, field instruction, extensive readings, and report writing. Determined and dedicated, Antonio emerged from these courses with high marks and received his certification in cane travel. After working as an instructor for two (2) successful years in Minnesota, he was ready for a change of scenery.  And as fate would have it, BISM was looking for a cane travel instructor!

So, in 2022, Antonio made the decision to return to BISM, as an ITR Cane Instructor. Since returning, Antonio has tirelessly instilled skills and building confidence in every student he encounters.

The not so confident young adult who once wondered about his future has matured into a responsible professional. Antonio is truly blessed with a job he loves and now the ability to provide for his family.   His ability to balance family and pursue his passion is important to him and thanks to BISM he can continue paying it forward.

Join Antonio in positively changing people’s attitudes about blindness and consider supporting one of BISM’s many programs.