Don't give up on yourself!

Photo of Andrea Smiling
At age five, Andrea Wagner was diagnosed with hearing loss, but it wasn’t until fifth grade that her vision problems were identified and she was fitted for glasses. At 29, specialists finally diagnosed her with retinitis pigmentosa in both eyes with Usher Syndrome, a rare disease that affects both hearing and vision.

Despite her challenges, Andrea graduated high school and went to Ivy Tech but had to quit after the first semester. She had two children at a young age and found herself in an abusive marriage of 24 years that finally ended in divorce. She was losing more and more sight and had to move back home to live with her mom. By this time, Andrea’s children were out on their own and she knew that she could not sit at home and do nothing.

At age 49, she contacted Bosma. She was a perfect fit for the program, but when she realized she would have to move to Indianapolis and live alone in a hotel for the 16-week program, she was terrified. "But I did it! Stepping out of my comfort zone was scary, but it turned out to be so rewarding.

“Bosma was the best thing that ever happened to me except for my kids and grandson. They taught me so much about how to live as a low-vision, life skills, and even simple things like changing a light bulb.

“They not only taught me the skills I needed to navigate life, but they gave me back my confidence and my self-esteem. They empowered me to go for my dreams.

“I made so many lifelong friends there – I didn’t want to leave the program – ever.  But when my counselor, Michelle Schaffer, asked me what I wanted to do with my future, I knew right away. I told her I wanted to go into social work and help people like me find their way. Michelle said, ‘Then let’s make it happen.’ She helped me figure out how to get into Ivy Tech’s social work program and here I am today, just a year away from graduation,” she said. I have a 3.45 GPA – imagine that!

“Before Bosma I had come to the point in my life where I didn’t believe I was capable of being on my own and succeeding, but when I came out of the Rehab program, I had changed. I knew I could do anything I wanted if I tried.

“I am a different person today with a bright future ahead thanks to the people and my experience at Bosma,” Andrea said.