The phrase, “A dog is man’s best friend,” is one that almost everyone has heard, but for two new first-years on Eastern’s campus, it means everything.
Kirstie Simmons lives with Sebastian, her two-year-old yellow lab, in Sparrowk Hall. Sebastian is a fully trained seeing-eye dog who helps get her around campus.
Simmons is partially blind and can only see the shapes and colors of objects. Her parents noticed that there was something wrong with her vision when she was three or four years old, but she wasn’t diagnosed as being partially blind until she was seven.
Simmons has only had Sebastian since this summer. Even though Sebastian is on duty most of the time, he does have his breaks.
“Whenever he is wearing his harness he is on duty, but whenever it is off of him, he is a ‘normal dog,'” Simmons said. “We do get to go out and play as well.”
One thing Simmons would like us to note is to be careful to not touch Sebastian while he is on duty, as it distracts him.
Sebastian wears booties on his feet to protect his paws. “When it gets really cold or really hot out, being on the dark pavement or brick can hurt his paws. And in the winter when the sidewalks and bricks are salted, the salt can get into his pads and hurt him,” Simmons said.
As for why Simmons finds herself here in the Eastern community, she said that, “it was the only place I applied. I had visited other schools but felt very welcomed and at home here. I just knew it was a good fit.”
As far as schoolwork goes, it is nothing out of the ordinary for her. Simmons has what is called a C.C. TV that allows her to place her books under a magnifier to bring the pages up on its screen.
Once the pages are on the screen, she can adjust the color and size of anything she needs to.
Simmons also owns a pair of telescope glasses that gives her a magnification increase of 132 percent. Her MacBook Pro helps her out with features like a built-in reader and screen magnifier that she uses on a daily basis.
Being partially blind hasn’t stopped Simmons from pursuing her dreams. In high school, she was a member of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which is a lower form of the ROTC, where students are trained to become military leaders.
Simmons was also a member of the concert band where she played alto-clarinet, B-flat clarinet and piano.
Simmons’ interest in music first began when she was five years old and in the doctor’s office. She was asked by a nurse at the office if she played the piano because, according to the nurse, she had “piano fingers.” Simmons immediately turned to her mom and asked, “Why don’t I play the piano?” Her mom turned that interest into a reality for Simmons and immediately enrolled her in lessons.
She joined the elementary school band in fifth grade by playing the B-flat clarinet. In eighth grade, she decided to tackle the alto-clarinet. Simmons plans on continuing her music career at Eastern by majoring in Music Education.
Simmons’ inspiration came in the form of her schoolteachers. “I had a couple of really great music teachers and I saw their influences on my life and I want to be like them,” she said.