Walking down the hallway at John Tyler High School, multiple teachers and administrators greeted Selena Bustos.
Almost every time she greeted them back by name. Sometimes, she engaged in a bit of banter with administrators she has known for several years.
In her own words, she’s “kind of popular” on campus. Her ever-present smile, willingness to work hard, and love for rap music and MTV make her a magnetic personality and, in many ways, just like her high school peers.
But there is one difference between the 18-year-old junior and most of the other students. Selena is blind.
Born about four months premature, she has retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, meaning there is abnormal blood vessel development in the retina of her eyes, according to a National Institutes of Health website.
Although some blind and visually impaired people struggle with their social skills and confidence, that is not a problem for Selena.
Which is part of the reason why Charlotte Tompkins, a certified teacher of students with visual impairments, wanted her to participate in a video designed as an educational tool for teachers to teach social skills.
The video entitled, “No Second Chances to Make a Good First Impression,” was this year’s only winner in a contest put on by the subcommittee of the Texas Action Committee for the Education of Students who are Blind and Visually Impaired.
The video is the product of work by Selena and Ms. Tompkins along with Markita Lane and Megan Dodd of The Lighthouse, which exists to rehabilitate, educate, train and employ people who are blind or visually impaired, according to its website.
In the video, Selena plays the role of a student who is participating in an interview for a required high school assessment.
During the first half, she demonstrates how to make a bad first impression by arriving late, looking down the whole time, speaking softly, and not responding to questions.
During the second half, she demonstrates how to make a good first impression by smiling in the doorway, introducing herself, shaking the interviewer’s hand, sitting up straight, holding her head up, and answering the questions.
Narration provided over the dialogue allows people who are blind or visually impaired to understand what is happening in the video.
Selena said the hardest part of the experience was playing the role of the person making a bad impression because she naturally is very outgoing, happy and confident.
Cyral Miller, outreach director at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, wrote in an email that the Tyler entry was wonderful and several parts of it stood out.
These included “the humor, the clear example of how to present yourself as well as clear examples of what not to do, the ability of others to use this idea and either replicate it for themselves or adapt the idea for their own purposes, and the quality of the video and auditory streams,” she wrote in the email.
The video is posted on the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) website and should available on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website.
Although Selena enjoyed her experience on camera, she’s not planning to head to Hollywood any time soon. She’s actually interested in pursuing a career in the medical field.
She wants to become a 911 dispatcher or a nurse and as a preview for those possible fields, she is taking a health science class at school.
After high school, she plans to attend the post-graduate program at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The program is designed to help students transition to independent living.
Ms. Tompkins said some of the main things she focuses on with the blind and visually impaired are social skills because they are so important in setting the tone for others.
“It’s almost like the blind person’s responsibility to make the sighted person feel comfortable,” Ms. Tompkins said.