Citizen Scholar a Beacon of Light to the Visually Impaired

December 8, 2015 - Eastern Florida State College student Andy Miles exemplifies what an educational institution can offer its students - and what a student can offer his community.

EFSC student Andy Miles
On November 7, Andy and his service dog Molly
participated in an annual 5K fundraiser, hosted by the BAAB
and The Running Zone Foundation. On the left is one of his
former BAAB students, Jennifer Cleveland. While getting to
know Jennifer as a student who recently lost her sight,
Andy realized that she was one of the nurses who cared
for him when he lost his own vision. On the right is another
former student, Dan Gray, who also transitioned to the
role of BAAB teacher.

Left almost completely blind after a brutal attack in 2007, Miles had to abandon his career as a land surveyor and construction worker and find a new direction. He reached out to the Brevard Association for the Advancement of the Blind (BAAB), took classes and learned that life still had much to offer.

He stayed with the organization as a volunteer instructor, teaching others the same skills and enrolling at Eastern Florida where he found the inclusive environment and assistance he needed to succeed.

The college’s Student Access for Improved Learning (SAIL) office provided Miles with a screen reading program that reads his written documents to him. It also directed him to the Center for Service Learning that matches students with community volunteer opportunities to maximize their job skills and employment prospects. Students who participate in the program can earn the Citizen Scholar designation if they maintain a GPA of at least 3.0, volunteer at least 300 hours, take several service-learning courses and write a Service-Learning final essay.

With more than 500 hours of volunteer work at the BAAB, Miles excelled in the program and graduated in May 2015 with an Associate in Arts Degree, wearing the Citizen Scholar Cord of Distinction at the commencement ceremony.

“I was the first in my family to graduate” from college, said Miles, who is now pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree at Eastern Florida. “It’s funny. I’ve inspired a lot of my sighted friends to go to college. They say, ‘If Andy can do it, and he’s blind, so can we.’”

Andy Miles graduationBesides continuing to teach the blind, Miles hopes to open his own community center to help at-risk children.

“I was an at-risk teen myself,” he said. “I know that meeting the right people can help kids get out of that rut.

That commitment to the community is what makes Miles special.

“His dedication and commitment to community involvement distinguishes him among the best of the best of our EFSC students,” said Rachel Allen, project specialist at the Center for Service Learning.

Miles is now balancing a busy schedule raising his 2-year-old daughter, volunteering at the BAAB and attending Eastern Florida. He’s grateful to those who have helped him along the way.

“The EFSC faculty and staff have been really great working with me,” he said. “I could not have accomplished what I did without their help and the support of SAIL. A lot of times blind people shut themselves off, but being blind is not the end of the world. There’s so much out there for you, and volunteering has been the best thing I have done for myself.”

Learn more about the Service Learning Program and the Citizen Scholar Distinction.

View more information about Student Access for Improved Learning - SAIL.