NFB Project STRIVE is dedicated in providing quality programs to help meet the unique needs of blind and visually impaired youth throughout Utah. Project STRIVE instructors are positive, educated, blind adults who are fully dedicated to model, mentor, encourage and teach life, education, and employment readiness skills. These skills, along with a positive attitude towards blindness is absolutely critical for blind and visually impaired youth to transition successfully as adults.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
An article written about one of Project STRIVE's mentors ... Barbie Elliot!!
By April Hale
Wed, 01/25/2012 - 7:02pm
LAYTON — Barbie Elliott, 42, has never seen the keys on a piano, words on a page, or the smile on a child’s face.
Despite these visual limitations, Elliott plays the piano expertly — by ear.
She has a bachelor’s degree in music composition, is a leader in the blind community, and a stay-at-home mom of four children, all with their sight.
“Everything I’ve wanted to do, I’ve found a way to accomplish it,” said Elliott, who was born blind.
She believes that blind people can do just about anything, given the right training and tools.
For example, Elliott’s 12-year-old daughter sings in her seventh-grade choir and wanted her mother to serve as an accompanist.
“I wondered how that was going to work,” said Lisa Miner, choir teacher at Fairfield Junior High in Kaysville. “But, if she says she can do it, she can.”
Miner played the song once for Elliott, who could then immediately play back everything she heard — including, to Miner’s chagrin, the mistakes.
“She played that thing after one hearing. It’s just amazing,” said Miner.
Elliott said her love for music began at an early age. When her siblings watched cartoons she would concentrate on the music from them.
“I paid attention to what (the cartoons) did with music to cause emotion,” she said.
She would then imitate the sounds she heard on the piano.
Her love for music was apparent at such an early age that her grandfather passed on his piano to her when she was 3 years old. She still uses that piano in her home today.
She began composing her own music because others would correct her mistakes, thinking she was making them simply because she was blind.
“I started writing my own songs because nobody could fix that. I still do it that way to this day,” she said.
A few years ago she cut her own CD, complete with her own compositions and arrangements.
Elliott is a firm believer that blind people can be independent, employable, and productive members of society.
She was the second completely blind person to graduate from a mainstream school in Utah. At the time, most blind children attended a boarding school in Ogden, she said.
While her parents thought the school offered a good education, they did not approve of the boarding school format. They wanted their daughter to learn how to function in a family, and she couldn’t do that if she didn’t live with one.
As a child, Elliott said, her mother taught her many basic life skills, such as, how to cook on a gas stove, change diapers and clean the house.
“My mother believed I could do it, and then made me do it,” Elliott said. “My mom was very patient. She recognized that my failure wasn’t always her fault or that I should quit.”
As the Weber/Davis Chapter President of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah, Elliott offers services to blind youth ages 13 to 26 to help them learn these same life skills. She works with them on a monthly basis through a program called Project STRIVE (Successful Transition Requires Independence, Vocation, and Education.)
The unique program, offered just in Utah, provides blind youth with blind adult mentors who teach life, education, and employment readiness skills.
This month, the group is taking the youth to tour the University of Utah and then taking them ice skating.
“We can teach sighted people that (the blind) can do a lot more than some people think,” Elliott said. “We want to change the perception that has been there for a long time that blind people should not have to work as hard.”