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Yokasta Urena | Facing Challenges & Embracing Possibilities

Yokasta Urena is a pretty Latina woman in eyeglasses. She’s smiling for the camera while standing against a chainlink fence. Behind her is the New York City skyline. Her hair is pulled back with a headband and she's wearing a stylish gray jogger outfit with sneakers.

Yokasta Urena | Facing Challenges & Embracing Possibilities

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People with blindness and visual impairments we face many challenges throughout our journeys. But if we have a positive mindset and really look at where we can be as opposed to where we are in that moment, and the struggle we’re facing, it makes it that much more bearable, and that much sweeter when we accomplish our goal.

~Yokasta Urena

Editor’s Note:

Bold Blind Beauty’s Nasreen Bhutta sits down for a Q&A with September’s Woman On The Move, Yokasta Urena who shares interesting insights on navigating life with sight loss. Yokasta was featured earlier in the year as a Monthly Beauty and we’re thirlled that she’s returned via video. One of the things that impressed me about Yokasta is while she’s an educator she’s also a life-long learner with an insatiable desire for knowledge.

Below the YouTube video is the transcription for those who prefer to read. Enjoy! ~Steph

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover

 Yokasta Urena is a pretty Latina woman in eyeglasses. She’s smiling for the camera while standing against a chainlink fence. Behind her is the New York City skyline. Her hair is pulled back with a headband and she's wearing a stylish gray jogger outfit with sneakers. Text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight Sept. 2022 | Women On The Move | Yokasta Urena.”

YouTube Video

Q&A With Yokasta Urena

Nasreen Bhutta: Hi everyone. I’m Nasreen with Bold Blind Beauty and our guest for September 2022 is the lovely Yokasta Urena. She’s from Queens, New York. And she’s working towards a doctoral candidate in the New England College, focusing on K to 12 Leadership Program and she is an adjunct professor at Illinois State University. Welcome Yokasta.

Yokasta Urena: Hi everyone. How are you?

Meeting Yokasta

Nasreen: Yokasta tell us a little bit about you and your sight loss journey.

Yokasta: Well, um, I was born in Queens, New York, to parents from the Dominican Republic. I was raised between New York and Dominican Republic.

My educational journey unfortunately was very difficult. I have a condition called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), which both my son and I have. Basically it affects the retina and the way that we perceive light. So sometimes I use a cane when I’m outdoors or when I’m traveling. I use inverted contrast and zoom. But in certain situations, you may not know that I’m visually impaired, it really does depend on the lighting. That made my educational journey a lot more difficult because people didn’t always know that I was visually impaired unless I told them or I had my cane.

Addressing Challenges

Nasreen: Yeah, that’s so true Yokasta. We talk a lot about here at Bold Blind Beauty that blindness is a spectrum. And I think you just really, you know, also confirm that with your eye condition as well to which maybe some people have or have not heard of. So I appreciate you sharing that. What has been most challenging for you thus far, Yokasta?

Yokasta: I think that everything is challenging, in all honesty, at least for me. It was very difficult for me to go through school. When I came back from Dominican Republic, I had to get a GED because my year of college work was not accepted in the United States. I went from a GED to an Associate’s to a Bachelor’s to a Master’s to postgraduate work and now at the doctoral level. But I think that it really is about your mindset.

People with blindness and visual impairments we face many challenges throughout our journeys. But if we have a positive mindset and really look at where we can be as opposed to where we are in that moment, and the struggle we’re facing, it makes it that much more bearable, and that much sweeter when we accomplish our goal.

Making A Difference

Nasreen: Totally agree. I’m sure a lot of people have gone through that themselves too. Also Yokasta, can you share a time with us when you made a dynamic difference in the life of someone?

Yokasta: Oh my goodness, I absolutely love teaching. I especially love to teach early childhood. They’re ridiculously funny and unfiltered, which I love. But one of my favorite experiences is actually working with a teen who was about 19 years old. She was visually impaired and had a an intellectual disability.

We were going to a museum on a field trip. She had her walker, and there was construction on the road. It was very difficult for her to get across. She started to cry. And I almost gave in I said, you know, do you want to go back to school? She said, No, no, I want to go to the trip I want to go. I said fine. If we both get across, we’re both going to get ice cream.

Well, long story short, we made it across the road. And we both started crying. As soon as we made it across, we were right in front of the museum. From that experience, I really learned about strength and about how much your determination can really guide your life and your choices. Even though I was there to support her and I made a change in the fact that she was able to engage and go to the museum and be part of the trip. I really feel that I learned more from her than she learned from me.

Nasreen: Wow, Yokasta, that’s a really resilient and just inspiring story all together. That’s awesome.

Yokasta: Thank you.

Lesson Learned

Nasreen: Can you share one lesson you learned from your sight loss journey thus far?

Yokasta: Yes, I learned that we as people with disabilities face many challenges that may not go away. If we’re going to be frank and we’re going to be honest. Yes, of course. We’re all fighting for equality for diversity, equity and inclusion. But in our day to day lives, we all face challenges that are not going to go away overnight.

But it is about our mindset and the life hacks that we find. I might go for a second into a boo hoo moment where I feel sorry for myself about something that’s really difficult for me. But I try to pull myself out of those moments pretty quickly because this is no dress rehearsal, this is life. So live boldly, do what you want. If you want to learn how to ski go tandem skiing, if you want to go if you want to learn how to sing, join a music school but live your life as best as you can.

Final Words

Nasreen: I love that statement Yokasta and we’re always talking about here at Bold Blind Beauty and that’s living boldly. So I love that that statement. Any final words of wisdom Yokasta?

Yokasta: Have fun, life is short. We are all working hard to have more quality in our country and around the world for people with low vision and blindness. But enjoy the journey as we’re working towards a better tomorrow for ourselves. Enjoy everything you possibly can. Not too much cake but you know…

Nasreen: That’s great. Not too much cake. I absolutely love it. But have enough. Have enough. Where can we find you? Where can we find you, Yokasta?

Yokasta: So I’m hiding somewhere. I’m not in social media too much. But if you’d like to speak with me further, I’d love to hear from you. My email is Yokasta dot Urena 1@gmail.com. So that’s Y-O-K-A-S-T-A . U-R-E-N-A the number one@gmail.com.

Nasreen: Thank you so much Acosta for joining us today on Woman On The Move at Bold Blind Beauty. Thank you so much.

Yokasta: It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Nasreen: It was delight having you.

Yokasta: Bye everyone.

Connecting With Yokasta:

  • Email: yokasta.urena1@gmail.com

Yokasta’s Bio:

HI! My name is Yokasta Urena. I live in Queens, New York. I have a 19-year-old son named Liam and an 8-year-old cat named Kitty Boo Boo! We (Liam and I) are both visually impaired due to Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. I am currently a doctoral candidate at New England College focusing on K-12 Leadership. I am also a research intern at CAST and an adjunct professor at Illinois State University.

Like what you’ve read and want to chat about it? Join us in the Bold Blind Beauty Facebook group.

Image descriptions:

  • The header photo is identical to the image used on the Beyond Sight Magazine cover, and YouTube thumnail. Yokasta Urena is a pretty Latina woman in eyeglasses. She’s smiling for the camera while standing against a chainlink fence. Behind her is the New York City skyline. Her hair is pulled back with a headband and she’s wearing a stylish gray jogger outfit with sneakers. Text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight Sept. 2022 | Women On The Move | Yokasta Urena.”
  • Video description: In the video, Yokasta’s dark wavy hair is down and she has on a gray cut-out at the neck and shoulders.
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