Losing his sight gave ASU graduate his direction, choice of career
Five years ago, Chris Armenta noticed his vision had suddenly gone blurry while he was trying to read a clock on the wall. He rubbed his eyes, but the problem continued. Six months later, he had become legally blind from a rare and untreatable eye disease.
He was 21, and wasn’t prepared for the changes blindness would bring to his everyday life. Armenta says he naturally became quite depressed. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to read a book again, much less go to college.
But as he slowly regained his positive demeanor and learned to move forward in spite of his disease, he realized the impact his support system of care providers, family and friends had made on his life.
“I decided that I wanted to give back, and that’s why I went into social work,” he says. “I like being able to make positive changes in somebody’s life. There are people who need a little help, just like I did, to be able to help themselves.”
Now Armenta is graduating with summa cum laude honors and receiving a bachelor’s degree in social work. He plans to earn a master’s degree in social work and become a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the blind or visually impaired. Armenta is already well on his way to that career.
While at ASU, he interned at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as well as the Arizona Department of Economic Security, providing counseling and case management to people who were dealing with a loss of vision.
“In my internship, I find myself using a lot of the skills I’ve learned in my courses and in my research, which feels great,” Armenta says. “I’m extremely excited to continue putting them to use.”
“Chris is one of the best students I've ever had in research,” says professor Layne Stromwall. “He's especially good at conceptualization and discussion of research topics.”
While at ASU, Armenta suffered another decrease in visual acuity. But he said he has come too far now to let that get him down. He draws inspiration from the strength-based perspective that he learned through his studies in social work.
“In social work, we say, ‘This is where you are now ... let’s build upon that and see how we can get you to where you want to be,’” he says.