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New York City
March 2002

David Santigo: A Student Deals With Blindness
By M.C. Cohen

David Santiago, a Guild School student who is blind, arrives at his school at 8:00 in the morning. As he uses his cane to make his way through the lobby, it’s clear that this 19-year-old student makes a difference in people’s lives. “Good morning,” says one security guard. “What’s up,” replies David. As David continues through the reception area, the elevator operator spots him and with a big smile greets David. “Hey David, big win for the Knicks last night.”

“I think we can take Jordan and the Wizards tonight,” says David with confidence. As David makes his way up the stairs, a teacher passes him on the way down.

“How’s it going big David?”

“Great,” Dave says, “Mike Piazza is swinging the bat really well this spring.”

If David sounds like your typical, talkative New York sports fan, that’s because he is. “Sports has meant a lot to me,” says David. “It’s something I really enjoy. I have a passion for it.”

David would like to turn his love of sports into a career when he graduates next year from the Guild School at the Jewish Guild for the Blind in Manhattan. He already spends one day a week working at the New York Mets Clubhouse Shop in midtown Manhattan.

“I love working at the Mets store,” says David, a lifelong Mets fan. “It’s a lot of people who have similarities. We all like the same team.”

“As far as the future, I would like to stay in a sports-related field, because that appears to be my strong suit. There’s talk of Yankee Stadium, Modell’s or some other stores that have sports clothes.”

So, can someone who has never seen a touchdown or watched a game ending double play have such a deep appreciation for the nuances of sports? It’s not uncommon for David to talk about a baseball player making a great diving catch over the third base bag or a basketball player soaring for a thunderous dunk.

“I’ve followed sports very closely through the years,” says David. “I listen very well. People tell me. It’s on TV. I hear people and the announcers describing it in their own way... My dad also taught me a lot since I was young.”

David’s success can be directly traced to his positive attitude. He has learned to travel independently around the school and with the help of Stu Filan, his Orientation and Mobility instructor; he’s learning to navigate the busy city streets and the complicated public transportation system.

“He’s the star traveler of the Guild School,” says Filan. “His immediate goal is subway and bus travel. Right now he knows how to get to the local stores, the post office, and the bank.”

David says he views his disability the same way the Mets would if they were down by a run in the last inning of a game. Never give up. “Just because you’re blind, ” he says, “it doesn’t mean that you’re not smart. I’ve learned that I can do more than most people think I can do. Sometimes you just need a little more help than others.”

David has indeed accomplished a great deal. From his skill in physical education class to taking a high school English course at the Beacon School and his ability to prepare food for his himself and his family, David has worked to make the most of his capabilities.

“He’s gone from a very dependent adolescent to a very independent young man,” says Filan. “He has so much heart and enthusiasm and he’s willing to tackle any task head on. As for his future, the sky’s the limit.

Whether greeting people at the door of the Mets Clubhouse store, making a great catch in baseball, or reading Catcher in the Rye, David has proven that he is a true achiever.#


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