Dallas ISD Senior Spotlight: Student overcomes vision loss to serve as drum major who thrives in school

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On his eleventh birthday, IDEA senior Rafael Martinez was diagnosed with an eye disorder that causes vision loss.

The condition, which is called Stargardt, today severely impacts his central vision, while his peripheral vision is stronger. Despite the obstacle, Martinez has thrived in school and this year served as drum major for the band at Wilmer-Hutchins High School. Next year, Martinez will attend Prairie View A&M University and be a future member of the legendary Marching Storm.

“I have an eye condition, but honestly, it has never been something that has stopped me from moving forward,” Martinez told fellow student Natalia Martinez-Sanchez for a profile she wrote. “It’s not something that will hold me back, and it’s not stopping me from doing something that is good.”

Martinez said he was drawn to IDEA because of the small class size, internship opportunities and personalized learning model, which taps into each student’s strengths, needs and interests. A highlight of his high school experience was the mentor–Michale Burke–the school paired him with who still keeps in touch with him today.

As someone who has thrived despite adversity, Martinez had advice for any other kids who are diagnosed with Stargardt in the future.

“This condition that you’re going to have to deal with is just a label, it doesn’t define truly who you are or what you can do, because it never did for me,” Martinez said. “Every time someone tried to put a label on me, I always took it off and proved them wrong and did what they said I couldn’t.”

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