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Empowering Young People to Soar With Passion & Purpose

Empowering Young People to Soar With Passion & Purpose

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

~Jay Danzie

Envision 2019 Level Up Conference

From the moment we arrived at the Wichita State University (WSU) campus we knew we were in good hands. Baylee Almos, a Delta Gamma sorority member was our campus guide and an excellent resource for all our needs.

Envision 2019 Level Up Conference is a week-long training for blind or visually impaired students from across the U.S. Hosted at WSU, students receive valuable skills they need to successfully transition from high school to college and/or career.

From morning to night the well-organized event provided plenty of student activities. Keynote speaker Jessica Loomer opened the conference Sunday afternoon with a very inspirational and motivational speech about perspective. In her speech, she shared her personal journey of losing her sight to LHON. What was really helpful was some of the real life on the job examples she provided. “It’s Just Coffee” mentioned throughout Jessica’s speech became a mantra for many of us who listened to her.

Sunday evening offered everyone the opportunity to let their hair down at the Level Up Live Kick Off. Described as a social oasis and multimedia venue WAVE located in downtown Wichita is an eclectic indoor/outdoor hotspot. The entertainment space is huge and creatively incorporates recycled materials. There was plenty of singing, dancing, eating, laughing, and mingling with Envision staff, volunteers, and students. What a fun way to kick-off such a memorable week.

Empowering Leader With a Heart of Gold

Meeting up with Chelsea Nguyen, of CN Vision Image Consulting for the first time was incredible. Our shared values and a mutual desire to create a more inclusive world are the driving forces in our friendship. Meeting Chelsea in-person at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport was an unbelievable experience for me that almost didn’t happen. You see, the first time she asked me to attend the conference with her I declined. Thankfully she didn’t give up on me and asked me to reconsider.

Chelsea is one of the most genuinely loving, compassionate, and empathetic people I’ve ever encountered. From our first meeting where she hugged me she did the same with Every. Single. Person. We. Met. Chelsea’s passion for people with disabilities is extraordinary. 

CN Vision Image Consulting’s purpose at the conference was to connect, empower, inspire, and train students. Empowering blind and visually impaired young people was a wonderful opportunity for Chelsea and our team. The team representing CN Vision Image Consulting were The Blind Blogger, Maxwell Ivey Jr.; Jeremy Bostic, and moi.

A hairstylist by trade, Chelsea is an excellent image consultant, educator, speaker, and motivator. She has a way with people that makes them feel like they can accomplish anything they desire. What touches me about Chelsea is just how easily she is able to express how deeply she cares about others. 

Chelsea does not have a disability. What she does have is an honest, heartfelt ability to empathize with those who do. Inclusion and accessibility are very important to her. Listening to her speak at the event gave me chills.

This small clip is just a glimpse into how Chelsea motivates:

Continue to shine

Modeling Positive & Passionate Leadership Behavior

Envision Leaders, Bonnie Cochran, and Hannah Christenson were extremely instrumental in keeping the program on track throughout the week. These two women who never missed a beat had inexhaustible energy to keep pace with their young charges.

There was very little downtime within the well-structured agenda. Every day after breakfast everyone attended the general session. Three sessions throughout the day (morning, afternoon, and evening) followed the general session with meals in between. After dinner, the students went to their evening sessions.

Our team’s presentation took place on Tuesday morning with an extended version in the evening. As representatives of CN Vision Image Consulting, we trained the students on non-visual grooming & hygiene techniques, professional and soft skills. During the evening training, there was a co-ed hands-on demo then we broke out into boy/girl groups. In the groups, the boys learned how to tie a tie and the girls learned how to apply makeup.

The student’s readiness for the college and career expo was evident as they demonstrated the new skills they recently acquired. It was at the expo where they performed their elevator pitches, networked and toured the Envision facility. The evening prior they enjoyed networking and a four-course meal.

I can’t tell you how good it felt watching these young people increase their confidence by learning these new skills. All of the staff, volunteers, and guests modeled a positive can-do attitude which showed the students limitless possibilities.

The Envision 2019 Level Up Conference was a life-changing event for everyone who participated. I can hardly wait to write additional content about Envision and the work they do. This company really walks the talk to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people.

The Lasting Impression

Everyone who participated in the conference was there instill the skills these brilliant young people will need to succeed. Witnessing the transformation of these remarkable young people was extremely poignant. As they voluntarily stood to give personal testimonials about how our team impacted them proved the value of the training. Thanks go out to Envision and WSU for their warm hospitality. Also, thank you, students, for working with us and for your feedback.

This post began with an empowering quote about leaving a lasting impression. I think it’s safe to say that everyone we’ve connected with accomplished this task!

Empowering Young People Featured Image Description: 

An in-flight photo of the partially visible interior airplane window frame and engine in the foreground. The window looks out into a blue sky and a bed of puffy white clouds.

Additional Images:

  1. Jessica & Starbucks: Jessica Loomer is standing in the auditorium between two Starbucks representatives. She has long dark hair and is wearing a white sleeveless dress. Each of them is holding Starbucks coffee cups. The Starbucks representatives provided coffee for the opening day.
  2. Dorm Check-in: Check-in at the registration desk on the WSU campus. Max is standing with his white cane. Jeremy is talking with the receptionist and Chelsea is speaking with our awesome Delta Gamma volunteer, Baylee Almos.
  3. Hubbard Hall: A photo of the auditorium prior to Jessica’s keynote address. There is a floor to ceiling movie screen at the front of the room.
  4. WAVE: An indoor photo of Wave with a few students milling about. The building design incorporates storage containers.
  5. Shocker Diner Evacuation: Students, staff, volunteers, and guests are outside at the meeting location doing a roll call.
  6. Chelsea Speaking: Chelsea is giving a motivational speech at the dinner on Thursday evening. She’s wearing a blue dress accented with a silver statement necklace.
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Carla The Exuberant Chief Communications Officer

Carla The Exuberant Chief Communications Officer

Hello, I’m Carla Ernst’s publisher and I’m contacting you because I know she was involved with Bold Blind Beauty. I’m very sorry to tell you that she passed away a couple of days ago.

Image of Carla and her white cane is described in the post.
Carla With Her White Cane

I’d just come home from visiting my friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The stress is palpable as I’m working on getting the June edition of CAPTIVATING! issued. I heard the email notification on my cell. Figuring it was one of our CAPTIVATING! team members, I glance at it and the next thing I know I’m screaming.

When anyone calls the Bold Blind Beauty 800 line it automatically sends a transcript of the voicemail. I thought this has to be a mistake when reading the transcript. So I open the email on my 32-inch monitor, then read and re-read the message. Comprehension slowly creeps up on me as my heart is breaking—Carla is gone!

Gosh, just writing this brings it all back—the tears, sorrow, and devastation of losing someone so close to me. While it’s been two weeks since she died a very large part of me still can’t believe she’s gone.

Exhuberant & Extraordinary Carla

I met Carla on November 10, 2016, right here on Bold Blind Beauty. It all began with a comment she left on one of my blog posts:

You look fab Steph! (I’m trusting my sighted girlfriend Ann who told me so). I lost my vision several months ago, but I have not let that negatively impact my sense of fashion one bit. I wear a lot of pencil skirts too, but I’m thinking of upgrading to pen skirts. Way more permanent. These pencil skirts could erase. Which would not be good because they have a no-nudity policy here in Milwaukee.

~ Carla Ernst

How was I to know that this one comment would lead to such an extraordinary friendship? The funny thing is, Carla and I never met in person. Yet this comment was the beginning of something very special. The comment led to an email which in turn led to a phone call that completely changed my life.

It’s so interesting how meaningful relationships can evolve while living in the virtual 24/7 world. My friendship with Carla was such a relationship. From the very beginning, her corny sense of humor was contagious; I remember telling her she should become a standup comedian. In addition to being a person who could make you laugh non-stop, Carla was extremely intelligent and uber professional.

Writer Extraordinaire

My relationship with Carla was life-changing because she clearly understood my passion for advocacy. Because of this understanding, she offered to help me to improve Bold Blind Beauty.

In a matter of months, we consolidated messaging and websites. If you’ve been following Bold Blind Beauty for a while you’ll remember there was a separate online store. The standalone online store was named after Abby our fashion icon. Then there were individual social media platforms for each site which made things a little hairy.

Carla’s offer to create a concise message made me feel a little; no, I was actually extremely uncomfortable. Living on disability means finances are tight and I knew I couldn’t afford her services. Here’s the kicker though: when I told her I couldn’t pay her she said all she wanted to do was to help. Who does this in this day and age?

Carla wasted no time developing a strategy She:

  • wrote Abby’s story and rewrote my bios (I now have several from which to choose)
  • hosted two focus groups to gather data to learn more about our audience
  • advised me to create a Steering Committee
  • updated the site’s structure to make more sense
  • helped me consolidate the obsolete Abigale Style into Bold Blind Beauty
  • contributed tons of content to Bold Blind Beauty
  • represented Bold Blind Beauty as Chief Communications Officer
  • presented endless ideas the most recent was giving Abby a voice

As a communications guru, Carla’s passion for writing could only be matched by her advocacy. She had a heart for volunteerism and gave so much of her time and talents to organizations who help improve the lives of others. What’s ironic about me writing this piece is I feel like I cannot do her justice.

What Carla Taught Me

Acceptance has to be one of the most important takeaways from my friendship with Carla. Remember how I said I met her in 2016? It wasn’t until last year that I learned something about Carla that hurt me to the core. Her memoir, Life Without Pockets: My Long Journey Into Womanhood, was a subtle hint.

I read Carla’s book in one sitting. It was excellent. As soon as I finished reading it I called her. While I can’t remember our exact conversation what I do remember is how badly I felt for her. To be clear, learning that Carla was trans was not an issue for me. Instead, I was hurt that she thought if I knew it would turn me against her.

Carla and I would talk on many subjects the majority of which focused on preconceived notions of others. Blindness was a great starting point, I think because of the many metaphors on the topic. For example, when you can’t see how a person looks it doesn’t matter— it’s about character.

However, in Carla’s defense, I get it. Being a member of several marginalized groups myself I understand how much it hurts when people cannot accept you for who you are. The beauty of Carla was that she didn’t place conditions on her friendships. She was 100 percent the real deal and I’m so beyond honored to have known her and call her my friend.

Moving Forward

I talked to Carla two days before she passed away and we had such a great conversation. She wasn’t feeling well; hadn’t been for that entire weekend but she wanted to share some ideas with me.

Being who she was, Carla was also a CAPTIVATING! team member and had big ideas on how we could further impact the world. We talked by phone at least twice a month and no matter what was going on in her life, Carla was positive.

I’ve always believed the majority of the world is full of very good, well-intentioned people. People like Carla reaffirms my belief, yet it would be reckless of me not to acknowledge the hatred. Hatred is the reason why Carla was hesitant to tell me her story and no one should ever feel this way. We are all human and we all struggle. For those who cannot feel empathy for others, you’re the ones missing out. Nobody knows what’s in store for each of us but I’ll tell you what it’s far easier being kind and compassionate than filled with hate.

Everyone has biases but until we get to know one another, I don’t understand how we can feel dislike towards another. Carla, I will forever be grateful to you for bringing so much light into my life. You are a bright star and I will miss you terribly my friend. I love you. RIP

It takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, and a day to love them, but it takes an entire lifetime to forget them.

~Unknown

Featured Image Description:

A headshot of Carla with auburn hair and she’s wearing a black top.

  • The second image is a black and white full body shot of Carla posing with her white cane. She is wearing a floral dress with floral patterned hose.
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VIP Community Raises Voices & Shares Common Vision

VIP Community Raises Voices & Shares Common Vision featured image description is in the body of the post.

“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”

~Helen Keller

VIP Community Raises Voices & Shares Common Vision

It’s so exciting to see how the VIP Community (short for visually impaired people) continues to grow by leaps and bounds. YouTuber team Matt and Corey of Blind to Billionaire help this growth by promoting the work of fabulous VIPs.

In Blind to Billionaire’s latest YouTube video, they feature 25 blind and visually impaired online communities. Everyone in this video sheds some light on what they are doing to raise awareness on blindness and visual impairment. Below the video are links to the channels I could locate.

Blind to Billionaire’s list of channels:

  1. Independently Blind
  2. Rafael Toro
  3. Six Blind Kids
  4. Lenny (supporter!)
  5. The Blind Life
  6. Bama Blind
  7. Technology for Blind
  8. Javier Diaz Finances
  9. Blind HypeBeast
  10. Yuki (supporter!)
  11. On the Fritz
  12. Bold Blind Beauty
  13. Its Rits Hits
  14. Living with Low Vision with Fernanda
  15. Ylluria
  16. The Blind Guy Show
  17. Eyes Free Fitness on YouTube or Blind Alive Website
  18. Blue Cloud
  19. Blind Visionary Woman
  20. Amanda Ulrich My Blind and Chronic Illness Life
  21. Stephanie Alma
  22. LegallyBlind.home.blog
  23. Chantelle Buys
  24. Mis Kaylers
  25. Two channels not featured due to technical difficulties:
    1. VI Blind Resources
    2. Blind Boomerang

To check out the more VIP channels be sure to visit: Top 45 Blind and Visually Impaired YouTube Channels of 2019

How Can You Help?

What’s so nice about being part of a community is working towards a common vision and drawing strength from one another. Each of the channels represented demonstrates the amazing possibilities VIPs can achieve. Together we are raising our voices to break down barriers and promote inclusion.

So the answer to how you can help is simple, just remember the 3 S’s:

  1. Support our efforts by being a VIP Champion. You can do this by becoming more familiar with us. I promise, most of us don’t bite.
  2. Subscribe and/or follow our online communities and engage with us.
  3. Share our content.

VIP Community Raises Voices Featured Image Description:

A closeup image of a gray microphone on a white background.

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3 Expert Tips For Aspiring Blind Videomakers

3 Expert Tips For Aspiring Blind Videomakers Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

“You don’t have to be great to start making videos on YouTube, but you do have to start making videos in order to be great!”

~Sam Seavey, The Blind Life

3 Expert Tips For Aspiring Blind Videomakers

Have I got a treat for you today! Recently I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite YouTubers, Sam Seavey of The Blind Life. During my conversation with Sam, I asked him what advice would he give to an aspiring blind videomaker and guess what? Yup, he made a video—how cool is that?

Just last week I featured one of Sam’s videos about a friend of mine, Libby Thaw. In Plane Pulling for Sight, Libby was raising money for Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. If you recall, in this post, Libby had to raise $2,500 to enter the event and I’m so happy to report she did it!!! As a matter of fact, here’s a little blurb of hers that popped up on Facebook:

Just a quick post to say that the Orbis Plane Pull event was a very moving day for me! I looked smashing, as you can see, while I mingled with the crowd. I told people that I was going to pull the plane all by myself, and asked if they’d help on the off chance I couldn’t move it. Look how many people jumped in to help!

Libby Thaw

Back To Tips For Blind Videomakers

One of my favorite pastimes is binge-watching YouTube videos. Each time I find a YouTuber who catches my attention I always come back to the same question: how? I mean seriously, every time I attempt to make the simplest of videos it becomes an all-day project. And to make matters worse it always feels forced and I choke.

So seeking some expert advice, I asked Sam for a few tips to improve my video making skills. This is what he sent for Bold Blind Beauty readers. Enjoy!

Thank you Sam!

3 Expert Tips For Aspiring Blind Videomakers Featured Image Description:

Still photo from the video of Sam holding his “Hey! I’m Walkin’ Here” Bold Blind Beauty coffee mug.

Additional Images:

  • Smashing Libby is decked out in Checkered Eye gear. Creative that she is, Libby made her entire outfit. From her checkered witch hat inspired headwear to her black and white checkered skirt, she looks amazing. Oh and I almost forgot she is also wearing checkered high heels.
  • Plane Pulling Team is a photo of a number of people holding onto the rope pulling the plane.