Article provided by Purdue University Fort Wayne; interview provided by Parkview Health
“Have faith, ambition and determination!” These are the words of Guerda Julien (B.G.S., general studies, ’17). She never gave up her dreams of education or her passion of service to others, despite facing many hardships in life. Now, she inspires others to persevere.
Guerda was born in Haiti and grew up there with her 17 siblings. As a young adult, she became a nun and served as a teacher and principal at a school for poor children. After becoming legally blind in 2000, she moved to the United States to undergo procedures to improve her vision.
In and out of multiple surgeries, Guerda continued to volunteer her services to others. She ministered to inmates and cooked meals at the Salvation Army. After five procedures, she was able to read large print. With the help of TRIO Student Support Services, she enrolled at Ivy Tech.
Guerda received her associate degree from Ivy Tech in 2013. She went on to receive her Bachelor of General Studies with two minors (psychology and human services) from IPFW in 2017. She was awarded the Indiana TRIO Board of Directors Part-time Scholarship and named TRIO’s 2018 Student of the Year.
These days, Guerda works as a mental health technician at Parkview Behavioral Health. She also volunteers at the Rescue Mission, the Fort Wayne Kiwanis Club, and St. Jude’s School.
“As a missionary,” Guerda says, “my vocation is love and service.” Her “love for people” and “the compassion I have for all humankind” influence her work and her pursuit of a graduate certificate in organizational leadership from Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Inspired by Guerda’s determination and selfless spirit, we asked her to share more about her journey.
How did you cope with the loss of your vision?
It was very hard for me to accept the situation, but I was confident that I would recover my sight. I kept thinking about people who were born blind and I thanked God that I had sight in at least one eye. I could only see close objects with my left eye, so the most difficult thing was that it caused me to suffer injuries, since I couldn’t see things in the distance. I managed to deal with the impairment.
What were some of the challenges you faced in college and how did you overcome them?
When I was in the nursing program in Ohio, I finally gave up because the print in the medication books was too small. I had difficulty reading them and the visual impairment caused me to have difficulty focusing on the material.
During my clinical, I needed to do research about each medication and report it to my instructor before I passed the med to the patients. I had a magnifier, but when I had to do research for eight medications per patient it was difficult. Plus, I had other classes in addition to my clinical classes to study for. It was very challenging!
When they told me that my left eye was closing as a result of a narrow angle glaucoma and macular degeneration, and that I needed surgery immediately, I was devastated. I relocated to Fort Wayne to have my procedure done because most of my relatives live in Fort Wayne, and I didn’t want them to have to make the trips back and forth to be with me. I am so grateful to the many doctors in Fort Wayne and Warsaw for doing an outstanding job and helping me regain my eyesight to be able to read large print.
This journey led me to enroll at Ivy Tech for my associate’s degree, and then at IPFW for my bachelor’s degree, which was so rewarding. I don’t have enough words to thank both schools. TRIO has supported me from the beginning to the end. They even gave me a person to take my notes, and to assist me in certain classes. The Disability Students Support Services allowed me enough time to take my exams and put all my books in my flash drive to read in large font. My instructors were also very supportive and made me large print handouts and exams.
What inspired you to work at Parkview Behavioral Health?
My love for people with mental illness, and the compassion I have for all humankind inspire me to work at PBH. As a missionary, my vocation is love and service. I am proud to be a part of the Parkview health system!
What do you hope to accomplish next?
I would like to continue to work for Parkview Health, in the area of mental health, and to serve wherever there’s a need for psychology and human services. I plan to continue my education and obtain my master’s degree from the Organizational Leadership and Supervision Program at Purdue University Fort Wayne.
What would you tell someone facing a difficult diagnosis?
I would tell them to have faith, ambition and determination! I would also tell them to believe in themselves because all things are possible to them who believe!
Thanks to Shubitha Kever at TRIO SSS for the pictures and additional information.