South San Francisco Adult Education
Marie Reynolds-Yerzy began taking computers at the South San Francisco Adult Education in September 1999. She came to the program with some computer knowledge, but she wanted to learn more about computers because this was a way for her to develop her creative talent. However, Marie had one major obstacle… she has a vision impairment. Marie believed she merely had a problem with her contact lenses, but was actually suffering from glaucoma. By the time she was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1998, she had already lost 50% of her eyesight. As time went on, her vision grew worse. Two surgeries and many medication later, Marie’s eye pressure was regulated, but her eyesight was almost gone; she was told she was legally blind. Marie, however, refused to accept the doctor’s bleak prediction for her future. Over two years of rehabilitation, she learned how to use a cane. Using a cane was the hardest for Marie…she felt like she was shouting out loud to the world that she was weak and incapable of doing anything for herself. Marie was determined to move on with her life.
Learning computers at the South San Francisco Adult School opened a whole new world of possibilities for Marie. At a time when Marie felt like she was perceived as weak and incapable because of her vision impairment, she actually felt optimistic and confident. Marie would leave her house by 7:00 am to catch a bus. Several transfers later, she would arrive at the South San Francisco Adult School. With the help of a used computer given to her by her brother, an IBM Screen Reader program, and a scanner, things started to happen for Marie. She learned to type by touch and mastered several computer programs earning a Certificate of Completion.
Marie continued to take computer courses and eventually learned how to create Web pages. She determined to create an ancestry Web page for her family. Her family was excited about her new undertakings, and they all came together to support her. She decided to research her husband’s family history, as well as her own. Through her arduous research, and with the new computer skills she had acquired, Marie began tracking down family members. In this way, she discovered a brother in Australia she never knew she had and a few other immediate family members. Marie and her brother began corresponding, “When I saw a picture of my newly found brother, I felt like I was looking at my father.” Marie has also found many cousins through the Internet and hosted a family reunion during the summer of 2001. Marie used her computer skills to organize a virtual family tree complete with branches for everyone and pictures. She compiled a mailing list, printed custom family reunion invitations, mailing labels and envelopes.
Marie says, “Being visually handicapped, I can still be an asset to the community.” She volunteers at the senior center in Vallejo and plans to help others research their ancestry. She is self-reliant, independent and resourceful. She is able to handle her personal finances online, correspondence and hobbies. Marie and her husband are starting a neighborhood watch program, using her computer skills to make flyers and notices.
Marie says, “I am very grateful for the South San Francisco Adult School programs and all that it has taught me. As long as you have a brain that still works, you should feed it as much knowledge as possible, because you’ll never know what you are really capable of until you try.”