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Hadley Names Ali Benmerzouga 2018 'Student of the Year'

Ali Benmergouza

A former math and statistics teacher from North Olmsted, Ohio who lost sight in his left eye in 1998 and then, 14 years later, in his right, has been recognized as "Student of the Year" by Hadley.

Ali Benmerzouga, 60, lost vision in his left eye as a result of myopia, which affects nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population and occurs if the eyeball is too long or the cornea is too curved. And after experiencing difficulty with his one working eye in 2011, the career school teacher would wait nearly a year before going ahead with surgery at Case Western Reserve University's Hospital in Cleveland that he had hoped would allow him to keep partial vision.

"I was still very active at work, at home and loved the outdoors," he said. "I was just afraid what might happen and put the surgery off as long as I could. But it got to the point where I wasn't able to read, write, or drive, and decided surgery was my only option."

Sadly, his worst fears were realized when multiple surgeries were unable to fix his deteriorating eye and he became legally blind.

Then, in early 2014, Ali reached out to Hadley and began to learn braille. After passing through the braille series, he moved on to our independent living series.

"I was trying to salvage myself and sharpen my skills so that one day I would be able to re-enter the workforce," Ali added. "Hadley was helpful, supportive and was always there to offer encouragement. They've restored my life in so many ways and have allowed me to continue to live my authentic life, communicate with the world, and meet new people."

Next came a series of nine online technology classes, a curriculum in business, and then Hadley's Foundations of American Government class.

"Ali is a motivated, hard-working, dedicated student, possessing a cheerful spirit, uplifting outlook on life and quick wit," said Hadley instructor Ed Haines. "He always has a kind word for everyone he meets and expresses gratitude for the smallest of deeds on his behalf. He is one of the most inspiring individuals I've ever met in my 35 years of teaching."

"I was overjoyed to learn that I had won Student of the Year," Ali added. "It made me feel like, ‘Hey, I'm back, and still worth something to this world.' It gives me a great feeling just knowing that I can continue to be a good, productive citizen."

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