Campus: Sonoma State University -- February 18, 2005

Amy Pitchforth - A Blind Student Scholar with a Sense of Adventure

Being blind is one challenge.

Teaching a classroom full of kids is another.

Such is the attitude of Amy Pitchforth, a Sonoma State University senior whose motto of "living adventurously" often leads her to try everything from scuba diving to rock climbing. In spite of being born legally blind, there isn't anything this young woman does not try to overcome.

This year she was named the Ambrose R Nichols Scholar by the SSU Alumni Association. She is one of the youngest seniors on campus at the age of 20 and has a GPA of 4.0.

Since the age of seven, Pitchforth has mastered the ability to get around with the aide of her cane and her keen ability to memorize everything. Her daily travels wouldn't be complete without her trusted companion and guide dog Gaynore, a yellow lab.

"Gaynore gives me confidence and is always there to give me a hug," she says. She also enjoys encouragement and morale support from her mother Sharon.

Every semester, Amy overcomes the strenuous task of finding class materials in Braille needed to succeed in class to maintain her 4.0 GPA. "It's a challenge to get professors to understand what it's like to learn while being blind," she says. In lectures, she says "the professor will say 'Now let's look at this' or 'Watch this slideshow' without realizing that I can't participate."

An ambitious double major in psychology and liberal studies, she is also studying for a Multisubject Teaching Credential as well as a Spanish bilingual teaching credential.

She recently finished one semester of student teaching at Gold Ridge Elementary School in Rohnert Park. She is also a big sister to two sorority sisters from Alpha Gamma Delta where she is Vice President of Scholarship. She is also currently serving as the Vice Chair of the Student Union Board of Directors at SSU.

Pitchforth aspires to be an elementary teacher. "It's really exciting to experience the moment when a child reaches a level of understanding and to watch their expressions," said Pitchforth. This coming fall semester, Pitchforth will get hands-on experience in being a student teacher.

Even though Pitchforth looks eastbound to schools like Yale and Harvard to continue her academic career in educational psychology, she still takes the time to enjoy all the adventures found in California. Rollerblading, rock climbing, and scuba diving are all of her favorite past times. "It's the only way to experience life," she says.

"I like to hear and feel everything around me in the ocean...it's free forming."

Only someone as in tune to their other senses as Pitchforth would notice the difference in ocean sounds between the tropical island of Maui and the coast of California.

Contact: Jean Wasp, Media Relations Coordinator, (707) 664-2057


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