When Trevor Ross encounters one, he finds a solution. Fast.
“It’s really amazing how Trevor tackles things,” said Kelly Ross–Foley, Trevor’s mom. “I’ll think to myself, ‘What are you even doing?’ He just whizzes through it.”
For months, COVID-19 shut down in-person learning at Trevor’s school, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. A setback? Sure. An opportunity to serve? You bet.
Before long, he was a “tutor on call” for classmates seeking help with homework packets.
“Trevor was receiving phone calls from his peers as they did their work,” his mother said, adding that he became a resource for teachers as they worked to provide remote support in a virtual environment. “Trevor gave his classmates pointers on specific things they learned in school, like helping with contractions.”
Just your typical sixth grader. Or not.
“Trevor has always been an old soul,” Kelly said. “I have moments where I say to him, ‘Oh my gosh, are you 25?’”
Nope. Just 12.
Ross’s can-do spirit aligns with ISBVI’s culture promoting independence and empowerment. Regions Bank has supported the school and the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation for years. The bank’s latest commitment? A $15,000 investment for remote learning adaptive technology.
‘Limitless’ is the word to describe what these students are capable of achieving and how they want to live.
Kathy Lovell, disability services and outreach manager for Regions
“I think all schools have learned a lot about their infrastructure during the past six months,” said Laura Alvarado, executive director of the IBCF, a nonprofit that supports ISBVI. “We live in a very visual world. People with visual impairments are constantly figuring out ways to adapt to that ever-changing visual world. And this is especially true for our students, who are faced with daily obstacles that require creative thinking and complex problem solving.”
Which brings us back to how Trevor finds solutions. For him, it’s always been routine. But for his parents, the early days were frightening.
“We noticed when Trevor was about 6 months old that his eyes were shaking back and forth,” said Kelly. “As he got a bit older, he also wasn’t crawling, wasn’t walking. And it seemed like he was always out of energy.”
His nervous first-time parents eventually learned that not only did Trevor have a vision impairment, he also had Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare heart defect requiring surgery. Doctors thankfully addressed his heart issue. However, an ophthalmologist diagnosed Trevor with Nystagmus Strabismus and Optic Nerve Hydroplasia, which causes his low vision, allowing him to only see shadows.
Even so, not much slows him down. He sings in the school choir and is learning to play piano. He enjoys spending time in ISBVI’s greenhouse as part of its horticulture program.
“I love planting stuff and seeing how things grow,” said Trevor. “I also like bird feeders.”
He likes math, too – a skill he kept sharp during ISBVI’s summer online learning program. This was the technology funded by Regions.
“I like it; it’s nice,” said Ross of using the online system. As for the math assignments? “I thought they were going to be a little harder than they were.”
That’s why he’s the tutor on call.
Helping remove educational barriers is a key aspect in encouraging students to reach their highest potential, said Kathy Lovell, disability services and outreach manager for Regions.
“By fostering access to online technology, Regions can provide equal opportunities for ISBVI students to advance and be independent,” said Lovell. “‘Limitless’ is the word to describe what these students are capable of achieving and how they want to live.”
The bank’s contribution also was the first gift to help launch a task force addressing the technology gap many ISBVI families experienced.
“When some of your students face additional barriers beyond a lack of technology or internet connectivity, there really is no one-size-fits-all answer to remotely address their needs,” said Alvarado. “A global crisis like COVID-19 illustrates the inequities that exist in so many areas – including education. We’re creating this technology group to help the school address these issues now, but it’s also about strengthening our ability to address them beyond a time of crisis.”
The donation also occurs during a milestone year for people with disabilities.
“This special time in history recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is a perfect way to support such a meaningful project,” said Lovell.
ISBVI was able to launch its fall semester in person. Ross was eager to return. What did he miss most?
“Communication,” he immediately answered. “I missed not being able to see my friends at lunch. It was so different. I’m excited and happy to go back.”
They’re the words of an eternal optimist who’s overcome every challenge from day one.
“I’m very proud of Trevor,” said Kelly. “He’s an independent, resourceful and unique young man.”