When asked what his favorite school subject is, ten-year-old Christopher Serrano gives a big smile. "Recess," he declares.
Not surprisingly, Christopher loves spending time playing sports and games with his friends. But as his mother, Maria Brambila, shares, finding extra-curricular activities for her blind son has always been a challenge.
"A lot of programs don't want to deal with having to accommodate a blind child. They're too afraid they won't know what to do with my son."
So, last year, Maria was thrilled to find out about Junior Blind's After School Enrichment Program, an inclusive after school program that brings together children who are blind or visually impaired with children who are sighted.
Diagnosed with retinoblastoma (cancer of the retina) at age 14 months, Christopher had lost vision in both eyes by the time he was two and a half. He remembers it taking a while to get used to being blind, but now Christopher has no problem thinking of himself as a kid just like any other.
Neither do his friends in the After School Enrichment Program. Here, children of all abilities go swimming, play teeball, ride bikes and participate alongside one another in a host of other activities. Says 11-year-old Moriya Lennon, "I thought it'd be different being around so many students who are visually impaired, but really they're just like me."
Joan Marason, manager of the After School Enrichment Program, treasures these comments. Says Joan, "It's these small realizations that are a big help to dispelling the stereotypes about what blind children can and cannot do."
And as a parent, Maria understands better than anyone the importance of building open minds. "Children who are blind or visually impaired need to be able to experience the world around them," she says. "It really is the only way that they'll ever have the chance to succeed and rise to the top."