Marie Ijambo speaks with the eloquence of an adult, and at 17 years old, she already knows what she wants to do with her life. Her goal is to be a psychologist to help people, as others have done for her. Marie’s inspiration is her school social worker, Ms. Paige, at the Maryland School for the Blind (MSB). “I feel amazing after talking to her. That is why I want to go to college and study psychology. If I can be a part of someone’s life like that, it would be awesome – to lend an ear, unburden someone’s heart about an issue – that would be great.”
Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Marie was diagnosed at 8 months old with Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a family of congenital retinal dystrophy that results in severe vision loss at an early age. She attended school in her home country as a child but moved to the United States with her parents and four younger siblings in 2018. “We love our home country, but we wanted better educational opportunities and medical resources for our children, especially for Marie,” according to her dad Arsene. The family relocated to Maryland, which they had visited many times, to be close
to other family members.
When the family was researching educational options for Marie, the National Federation of the Blind referred them to MSB, and based on her IEP goals, she was accepted as a student in 2018. In her fourth year at MSB, Marie is thriving academically and socially. She has learned to read and write braille, improved her cane travel skills through Orientation and Mobility lessons, and plays sports with her peers, although she admits “sports is not one of my favorite things.” She decided to join the MSB track team to be a more well-rounded person and to take her out of her comfort zone and try something new.
An avid reader, she enjoys the Anne of Green Gables series. According to Marie, “It is such a beautiful story and walks you through when something new happens in your life. All of the characters learn to adapt to their situation.” Perhaps she relates to the story because there are similarities in her life. Marie has had to adapt to many changes, including relocating to a new country, attending a new school, and making new friends. This could have been challenging as a teenager, but Marie has adjusted beautifully.
Going to school at MSB has helped her in this regard. According to Arsene, “I am so impressed with the school and the staff at MSB. There are children here with very big challenges, and the teachers are so patient and kind. You can see that they do this for love, not for the money.” Marie echoes her father’s sentiments. “I love attending school at MSB; it is an awesome place. The people here really care about us and are genuinely involved in our lives, and that’s a great thing.”