Muzamil Yahya fell out of a tree at 13 and with that fall his dreams tumbled, too.
Muzamil lost his sight. With no resources for the blind in his native Ethiopia, the handsome, athletic boy became a shut-in, waiting for his siblings and friends to come home from school each day to lead him to fresh air. "Every day, unhappy," said Muzamil, 23. "Never laugh. No chance to do. No hope."
In 2008, an older sister and her husband, an interpreter in Minneapolis, sent for Muzamil and other family members. Within months, Muzamil had a rehabilitation counselor at Minnesota's State Services for the Blind, who matched him with Sharon Monthei, an ESL and Braille instructor at Blind Inc.
Sharon, who is legally blind, meets with Muzamil twice a week for two or three hours each visit, coaching him in English and computer skills. Today's lesson: Microsoft Outlook. Being his first teacher here, Sharon said, created a "special" bond between them.
Other Blind Inc. staff members have taught Muzamil, who lives with his mother, life skills such as cooking and riding the bus. Muzamil, a quick study, plans to take his GED test, "after I improve my English," he said. Then? College.
"I am planning to be a lawyer," said Muzamil. Sharon nods. "I think you'll make it," Sharon tells him. "In two years, you've come an awfully long way."