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Daniel Martinez will soon attend graduate school, and he most recently graduated from the University of Texas at Brownsville in December, 2014 with a degree in special education. He serves the National Federation of the Blind of Texas as a board member, as the first Vice President of the Texas Association of Blind Students and as the Vice President of the Rio Grande Valley Chapter. He helps organize outreach activities in the often-underserved Rio Grande Valley area, assists with coordinating and teaching the Rio Grande NFB-BELL Program and works to mentor blind Federationists in any capacity possible.
Daniel’s life completely changed in fifth grade during a traumatic four-wheeler accident that left him blind. He received home-bound cane travel and braille instruction from professionals who pushed him to perform academically, but, never the less, encouraged him to attend a school for the blind. Daniel, however, insisted that he return to his main-stream public school classroom to resume his education.
Daniel thrived throughout middle school and high school, both academically and socially. In middle school, Daniel was an assistant coach over multiple youth sports, including soccer, track, volley ball and baseball.
In high school, Daniel was part of the family career and community leaders of america, where he participated in many volunteer activities, and was in the National Honor Society. He went from being a C-average, English Language Learner student to taking Advanced Placement classes during his freshmen year.
Daniel became involved with the National Federation of the Blind of Texas in 2007 when he was a mentee in a youth program sponsored by the Federation that focused on career opportunities.
“Before that, I didn’t know anyone who was blind,” Daniel said. “And, if I did, they weren’t successful or independent blind people.”
During these Federation programs, Daniel learned to advocate for himself and became more confident in his abilities. He met many strong Federationists who are still his mentors and friends today. These mentors helped shape Daniel’s aspirations and understanding of what is possible for the blind.
“I had mentors who were teachers and professors, so I was able to ask them questions about their careers,” Daniel said. “That’s why I went into the academic field. I was observing them and asking questions. Throughout my education, when I had questions, I knew who to contact.”
Daniel has come full-circle; he now serves as a mentor for a student coming into the Federation at an earlier age than he did.
“I’ve taken him to the Texas state convention, student seminar and national convention this year,” Daniel said. “He’s having trouble with the Division of Blind Services, so I am teaching him how to approach the counselors, because he has the same ones I did when I was his age. They can be tough to work with, but we can manage.”
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