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2017 Student of the Year Award Winner: John Byiringiro

My name is John Hope. John Byiringiro, which means hope in English and my last name is Singleton. So I go by John Hope Singleton. I originally come from Rwanda in Africa.

So I moved to the United States three years ago. I wasn't born blind. When I was born my eyes were normal and everything. Basically, I lost my vision due to lightning . My biological mom got struck by lightning holding me as a baby. It basically burned my eyes and caused me to be blind.

Growing up was really difficult. I encountered people telling me I can't do anything. Even when I went to a school for the blind in Rwanda, my teachers would just tell me, "Just if you don't know the answer, just write ‘impossible for the blind.’" The orphanages everyone just kind of treated me like I didn't matter or I was just almost like a curse or something.

I first learned at Hadley when I was back in Rwanda because I was talking to my mom and she was telling me about Hadley because I was planning on coming to the United States. And so she told me about it and she told me that I would take classes, I would take homeschool classes. My first Hadley class was Basic English Skills and I took this class because I was new in the United States. I didn't know the language. I was a high school student before I came to the United States so I wanted to keep going.

I was 20 years old when I came to America, so I was older. English is not my first language. So I feel like it would have been really difficult for me to be in the classroom in public school where a teacher is teaching something that I absolutely don't have no clue what they're talking about. You know, basically, it wouldn't have been possible for me to be able to get an education — to be able to get a high school diploma— if it weren't for Hadley.

Like I said, there are many options of things that you can study based on who you are, what you like, what you enjoy, what possibly you can see yourself being in the future. For me I wanted to, I had a desire to be a counselor someday but when I took Personality Psychology that class really was so enjoyable it helped me realize so much 'cause I, you know, I wouldn't have, you know, felt that way or I wouldn't have known that unless I took Hadley.

I just thought I was pretty much the only blind person in the world growing up because I didn't see other blind people. And so Hadley has been very great. I'm really thankful that there was an option where Hadley can help me still be able to get an education and still go to college and pursue my dreams and my desires.

So I would really encourage to donate to Hadley. In fact, I can't wait to donate to Hadley.

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