When Angie Braden ('97) came to UNT seeking independence, she found opportunities and experiences to help others. Braden developed glaucoma at the age of 10 and in the next seven years had 14 surgeries, but the disease was too aggressive. A few months before graduating from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, she lost her sight.
"I was completely devastated," she recalls.
Braden knew she needed support from her family to help her adjust to her new way of life, but she wanted to learn to step out on her own. So when a friend offered to room with her at UNT, she jumped at the opportunity.
"I was so unprepared. I didn't have a cane or any assistive technology," she says, adding that her grades dropped.
"I became depressed and overwhelmed."
The next semester she registered with UNT's Office of Disability Accommodation and sought a counselor on campus to help her cope with her disability.
"I surrounded myself with positive people who kept me encouraged," she says, crediting fellow student Cheylon Brown ( '99, '09 M.Ed.), who now is director of UNT's Multicultural Center, as one of many to help her while at UNT.
"She kept me motivated with pep talks and volunteered to read my textbooks for me."
Braden's grades improved and each semester things got better. Earning a degree in communication studies, she now gives speeches on motivation, student success and living with a disability. She shares her story on blogs and television programs and has been commissioned to speak by groups including the National Basketball Retired Players Association. A speech teacher at Lone Star College in Kingwood, she recently received the Lone Star College's Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award for her exemplary teaching. And she hopes to publish her memoir, Black Sky: Memoir of a Blinding Girl, this fall.
"Success isn't something you stumble upon," she says. "It's a choice to make good decisions, work hard and endure during challenging times."