Iliana Mejia | Amplifying The Voices Of The Underrepresented

Header photo is a headshot of Iliana a pretty light brown skin young woman. Her dark hair is pulled back and she's wearing a sleeveless black top with a bejeweled neckline.

Women On The Move | Iliana Mejia   

Contents:

Editor’s Note

It has been so refreshing working with so many Gen Zers this year and Iliana Mejia is no exception. Intelligent, kind, compassionate and a heart for advocacy are words that define today’s Woman On The Move. I love how Iliana expresses her love for reading and balances it among her many other activities.

As with our other 2021 Beyond Sight features we’ve included the YouTube video along with the transcript for those who prefer to read the content. Enjoy! ~Steph

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover contains  a headshot of Iliana a pretty light brown skin young woman. Her dark hair is pulled back and she's wearing a sleeveless black top with a bejeweled neckline. The text reads Iliana Mejia | An advocate who desires to amplify the voices of the underrepresented.

YouTube Video

Transcript

Introducing Iliana Mejia

Hi, my name is Iliana Mejia and I’m 17 years old. I’ve just finished up my junior year of high school. I was born with a condition known as Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, or LCA for short, which has left me completely blind except for a little bit of shadow perception and light perception.

Even though I’m blind, that has not stopped me from doing the things I love. These things include singing, reading, and writing. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember.

Music has just always been a really big part of my life and it brings me a lot of happiness. I currently attend a music program known as FMDG (Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School) that I’ve been attending for a very, very long time. And there I’ve gotten to work on my craft of singing, but I’ve also gotten to learn a little bit of piano.

I post a lot of my song covers on YouTube, and on Instagram sometimes. I’ve also written a couple of my own songs. And in my Drive files, I probably have about 400 songs, although they’re not all finished.

Favorite Authors Spark Creativity 

I’m a very avid reader and I’ve been reading ever since I was young. My parents have always made sure that my room was stacked with either cassette tapes or Braille books for me to read and listen to. And whenever we didn’t buy them, we’d get them either from the library by my house, or I’d get them from the library at my school.

Currently, some of my favorite books include The Diviners Series by Libba Bray and The Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare. These two authors have done such an amazing job creating worlds and characters that have just been able to transport me into their characters’ mind and live their experiences. And they’ve made a great impact on my own life and how I view the world.

Authors like these, and many others have actually inspired me to write my own stories, even though I’ve never published any of them. I really enjoy getting to create characters and create worlds for myself to just kind of read over.

Confidence Boosting Sports Activities

Besides my reading and writing and all the creative things I like to do, I also like to be very active. I’ve been a part of many sports teams, both in and outside of school.

In school, I’ve been a part of swimming, cheerleading, wrestling, track and field, and goalball. Goalball is a sport that is created for the blind, which it’s kind of a mixture of like bowling, but like also soccer. The players will be on the floor, and they will have two teams of three players on two sides of the court. And the one team will roll the ball to the other and the other team will have to dive on the floor to try to block the team that is rolling the ball, and then try to score a goal on that team.

I’ve gotten first place medals in both swimming and wrestling, and I’ve gotten many trophies for those sports, and the others that I’ve been involved in. Outside of school, I’ve gone to sports camps and was also on a professional goalball team for a while.

And these experiences have really helped me for one be a team player and introduced me to new people that I would have never met otherwise. But they have also shown me that I am capable of so many things and have made my sense of self worth just rise. Because I’ve forgotten those metals and I know that it was my work and my talent that got me those things. So they have really been helpful in boosting my confidence as well.

Amplifying Underrepresented Voices

One of my biggest missions in life is to be an advocate for communities who are very underrepresented, such as the visually impaired community, the POC community and others whose voices do not get the chance to be heard. A couple of years ago, I was involved in an initiative with my school to represent other schools for special education in getting the funding that they need to continue the work that they do.

I’ve also worked for theater organization called Black Light, which is a theatre company for people of color to show their craft, and to be represented since they’re not always very well representative in the entertainment industry. I really enjoyed that job because it gave me the chance to not only use my skills in the creative sector, but also in the activism sector as well.

I also worked for a company called The Center, where me and a group of other young teens made a presentation and a workshop, talking about the issues that foster children faced in the system, and how we can help. I also just in general, have always been an advocate for people with visual impairments because I have a visual impairment. So I teach others what that’s like, and the things that people with visual impairments need.

Although everyone is different, it is still important to remember that everyone who has a visual impairment does need some sort of accessibility and to keep that in mind when creating things like apps and technology, which I spoke about recently at the ED Games Expo.

Technology & Independence

I was recently involved with an initiative to promote WeWalk Smart Cane and app. This was an amazing experience because not only did it help me become a more safer and independent traveler. But I know that bringing awareness to this technology is also going to help younger kids who are just starting their journey in independence and just learning how to use a cane and learning how to use technology. And I love being a role model to those who are younger because I think that growing up, you need good role models to be the best person you can be.

Video Credit WeWalk

Being an independent traveler is very important to me because I’m planning to go to college, most likely further away from home. If I am further away from home, I need to know how to be an independent traveler and how to use my cane properly, and also how to get around with public transportation.

Currently, I know how to use the bus and I’m learning how to use the train. I also use rideshare services such as Access A Ride here in the city, as well as others such as Lyft or Uber. When I go to college, I’m not exactly sure what I want to study. However, I know that whatever I decided to do in my future, I want it to make an impact on my community and other underrepresented communities. I also want to try to use my creative skills in some way. Whatever the future brings for me, I know that I am ready for it.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Connecting With Iliana Mejia

Image Descriptions:

  • Header photo is a headshot of Iliana a pretty light brown skin young woman. Her dark hair is pulled back and she’s wearing a sleeveless black top with a bejeweled neckline.
  • Beyond Sight Magazine Cover contains the same photo as in the header. The text reads Iliana Mejia | An advocate who desires to amplify the voices of the underrepresented.

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