(LOUISVILLE, KY) – When Cory Wallace and Alex Hitzelberger were presented their diplomas from the Kentucky School for the Blind on May 23, they were saying goodbye to a school they had attended since they started kindergarten in 2009.
The two were part of a graduating class of nine students in an emotional ceremony that celebrated their success and resiliency.
Melanie Craft, Wallace’s mother, expressed how important it was to enroll her son in a school that would be accommodating for his needs.
“He lost both eyes to cancer,” she said. “So, I thought it would be best for him to be there. It (KSB) just puts a smile on his face.”
While at KSB, Wallace was a member of the track team and participated in the school’s Bill Roby games. He was also a part of a percussion group in the music department and has been playing the piano for several years.
He was also part of the KSB work program and has worked at Lynn’s Café at the American Printing House for the Blind.
Brandi Hitzelberger, Alex Hitzelberger’s mother, said it was “overwhelming” to reflect on the impact KSB has had on her son.
“I want other kids to go there and good things to happen to them as well, because they (KSB) have been so good to us,” she said. “He achieved so much that I would love for other kids to have that opportunity to develop and the success that he has had.”
While at KSB, Alex Hitzelberger was a member of the track team and was part of the work cooperative. He is employed at Pelo Salon and the food pantry at Simpsonville Christian Church.
He also participated in Expanded Core Curriculum camp with the Deaf-Blind Project for three summers and is a member of Simpsonville Christian Church. After graduation, he plans to live at home and continue to work at Pelo Salon.
Brandi Hitzelberger believes her son’s success is due to the attention he received at KSB, with its small, family-like community.
“I don’t want to say he wouldn’t have gotten that from another school, I’m sure he could have,” she said. “But I really think that being surrounded by a whole school that knows him and being able to communicate with each other, it’s just different.”
As part of KSB’s graduation ceremony, it is tradition for the graduates to give out roses to the people who meant the most to them during the high school journey. There was not a dry eye in the room as the students gave out the roses.
Aside from Hitzelberger and Wallace, there were seven other graduates. Here are their stories:
Caleb Adams, of Shelbyville, has been a student at KSB since 2017, starting in the 7th grade. He has been active in the music department, has played piano for more than five years and was a part of the Percussion Ensemble at KSB.
This summer, Adams is planning on getting everything he needs to do his dream job, which is to create content related to building things and sharing his love of LEGOs.
Faith Cook, of Louisville, started as a part of the KSB short-course program during her 9th-grade year, and went to KSB full-time at the beginning of her senior year. She was a part of the school’s work program and has worked at McDonald’s. Cook also participated in the Summer Work program and was employed at Kentucky Kingdom, where she continued working through the fall. She also was in the music program at KSB, where she played piano.
Cook plans to live on her own after graduation and find employment through the Charles W. McDowell Center for the Blind in Louisville. She hopes to work at the registration desk in a hospital setting.
Eric Echeverria, of Louisville, has been a full-time student at KSB since 2014, starting in 3rd grade. He was a shared placement student at Central High School (Jefferson County) for the past four years. Echeverria was part of the work program at KSB, working at the American Printing House for the Blind as a Braille proofreader. For the past two years, he has also participated in the Insight Program, a post-secondary preparation program housed at Morehead State University dedicated to promoting college and career readiness for students who are blind or visually impaired.
After graduation, Echeverria plans to live at home and attend classes at Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC). After he has completed his associate degree, he plans to transfer to Indiana University Southeast to pursue a bachelor’s degree and become a Spanish interpreter.
London Henry, of Louisville, has been a student at KSB since 2015, when he started in the 5th grade. He was a shared placement student at Central High School (Jefferson County). Henry was involved in athletics while at KSB, playing goalball, the most popular team sport for the blind and visually impaired. He was also a member of the percussion ensemble and choir.
He participated in the Insight Program at Morehead State University for the past two years. He also has participated in the KSB Summer Work program at the Louisville Zoo and plans to work at Kentucky Kingdom this summer. He was a part of the work program at KSB and currently works for Kroger.
After graduation, Henry will be living in Louisville and attending JCTC, and then plans to transfer to Indiana University Southeast to study medicine or dentistry.
TaMyah Jordan, of Frankfort, has been a student at KSB since starting the 10th grade in 2020. She also has been a shared placement student at Central High School (Jefferson County). Jordan was an active member of the KSB athletic program, participating in both track and cheerleading, was a part of the work program at KSB and currently works as a student ambassador for the Blind Schools Collective.
Jordan received the Rotary Club of Louisville’s Unsung Hero Award and has been accepted at the University of Kentucky, where she plans to major in merchandising, apparel and textiles.
Jontae Moore, of Louisville, has been a student at KSB since the 6th grade in 2016. He was a member of the KSB goalball team, cheerleading squad and bowling team. He participated in the KSB Percussion Ensemble and choir, as well as the Insight Program at Morehead State University.
Moore is participating in the KSB work program this summer and hoping to work at Kentucky Kingdom. Upon graduation, he plans to attend JCTC and study history.
Erin Willoughby, of Elizabethtown, has been a student at KSB since 8th grade in 2019. She has been a part of the work program at KSB and currently works at the Kentucky School for the Blind Charitable Foundation. She also was part of the KSB Summer Work program and was employed at Kentucky Kingdom.
Willoughby participated in the PATH program through the McDowell Center and was a member of the school’s string ensemble and percussion ensemble. Upon graduation, she plans to attend the Carl Perkins Vocational Training Center in Thelma, Ky., and study to become an office tech.
2023 Paul J. Langan Award
As part of this year’s ceremony, KSB also gave out the 2023 Paul J. Langan Award, which was established in 1992 and is dedicated to former Superintendent Paul J. Langan (1945-1956) in recognition of his outstanding service and constructive leadership.
In order to qualify, the recipient must be a Kentuckian or former Kentuckian and must display qualities that have had a strong, positive influence on the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired and KSB.
This year’s award went to Barbara Parker Evans, who first came to work at KSB in 1953 as a bookkeeper.
“While here, she quickly identified additional ways to support the students,” said KSB Principal Peggy Sinclair Morris. “For example, she organized a group of girls into a scout troop and demonstrated the principles and ethics of being a servant leader. She took female students on weekend camping trips, not only to entertain them, but also to teach life skills – being an example that any parent would appreciate for their child.
“Barbara frequently worked outside of normal business hours to be a teacher and surrogate parent to any student who attended the Kentucky School for the Blind. In fact, it was many of those same characteristics that first drew the attention of Will Evans, a former student who returned to KSB’s campus to teach. They were married in 1959.”
Will Evans went on to be a superintendent of the school and, “Mrs. Evans maintained a presence on campus as a helper. She supported many after-school activities, such as counseling young women, serving as senior class sponsor, and prom organizer,” Morris said.
“Even after retirement from campus responsibilities, she has been a constant ambassador for anything and everything related to KSB or the Charitable Foundation,” Morris said. “As students graduated and became members of KSB’s alumni, she still offers to serve as driver for anyone needing a ride to a medical appointment, church or funerals.
“Now approaching age 88, Mrs. Evans continues to be a shining example of someone who lives her life in service to her family and faith.”