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Harrison woman helping the blind reach their full potential

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

Lucy Stroschine is on a mission.

The Harrison County itinerant teacher for the blind will be retiring June 9, but that doesn't mean she is giving up her quest of helping students succeed.

Stroschine is continuing on her path as an advocate for the blind and visually impaired. She is leaving her position to begin her own consulting/training company and will specialize in assisting the blind to gain employment in relevant markets.

In West Virginia, 85 percent of the blind are either unemployed or underemployed, Stroschine said.

"Most of them are willing and eager to have a pertinent job. They want to use their education and brains," she said. "I've only done one portion of my job if I can get them to graduate, but can't get them employment."

As part of her new role, she hopes to interview those interested in acquiring occupations and locate employers willing to give them a try. She will also seek the technology needed for them to succeed at their positions and will even offer on-site training.

She will be working with the West Virginia Assisted Technology Service, individual school districts, and rehabilitation facilities.

"In Harrison County I know of over a dozen blind or partially sighted graduates, several of whom were valedictorians of their graduating classes and have college experience, even advanced degrees, but they remain dependent on (Social Supplementary Income)," Stroschine said. "They have the three R's. They lack the three T's: technology, training, and transportation. It is extremely disappointing to see them graduate and be unemployed."

Anyone who is blind or partially sighted and is interested in employment can contact Stroschine for training at 269-3136.

Stroschine has 25 years of experience in instructing the blind. She initially became involved thanks to a blind friend of her children. She later went on to receive her master's degree in special education from Vanderbilt University.

She works with students throughout Harrison County and has been based at Wilsonburg Elementary for the last four years. It is important for blind students to participate with other students in a regular classroom environment so they will be better prepared for the real world after completing their education, she said.

Recent advances in technology have transformed the education of the blind and are enabling blind children to be mainstream, Stroschine said.

One such machine is the Braille Lite 40 which is a laptop-sized computer that functions as a word processor. The machine has a built in translator and is paperless. It displays refreshable Braille that is sharp to the touch and allows the user to insert, delete and modify words as sighted people do with word processors. It also has printing capabilities.

Stroschine is hoping to get her own Braille Lite machine to use for teaching since the one she has been using belongs to Harrison County Schools. But a new machine costs $5,495.

"No one in the state instructs adults on the Braille Lite, which is the most state-of-the-art technology available to the blind," she said.

The Harrison County Board of Education has been looking for Stroschine's replacement for several months, according to Sharon Brisbin. There are interested applicants and the board wants to fill the position as soon as possible, Brisbin said. The new teacher will need to be proficient with the advanced technology, Stroschine said.

"She's going to be hard to replace," Brisbin said. "Lucy is a bright lady. She is well traveled and intelligent and she brings that to the classroom."

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1443.

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