The Sky Is The Limit: Spotlight on Allie Parrish

Originally, I wrote this post for The Lighthouse, and it was never published there. It’s a bit different from my usual posts on this blog, because it is a profile. But this lady is awe-inspiring, and a role model for anyone, blind or sighted. I’d like to introduce you to Allie Parrish.

College graduation is the time when life begins for most young adults. But one University of St. Thomas graduate is already living a life filled with adventure, philanthropy, and success. Allie Parrish decided what she wanted out of life early, and with independence, perseverance, and optimism, she has it all. She is a scholar, an athlete, a world traveler, a leader in her chosen field, and she hasn’t even started graduate school yet! She’s also been blind since birth.
From an early age, Allie determined that independence was the key to accomplishing her goals. She wanted to go to college and study Psychology. Then she heard a statistic concerning unemployment numbers for blind individuals, which further inspired her determination to succeed in her chosen career path.
College preparation commenced early for her. As a freshman at Robert E. Lee High, in Tyler Texas, along with Algebra and Chemistry, she engaged in a self-appointed curriculum, a hands-on approach to learning skills that would allow her to live an independent life. With her mother’s assistance, she memorized which clothes matched for fashionable outfits. She learned to cook, and to do her own laundry. She also met with an Orientation and Mobility instructor once a week, in order to develop independence in social settings and business situations.
Throughout high school, Allie’s mother was honest with her about the visual aspects of socialization, such as posture, fashion, and gestures. According to Allie, “What is worse, feeling embarrassed by your parents for a moment, or being ostracized by strangers?” Allie always felt confident in public and meeting new people, because of the things her Mom taught her, and this self-assurance enabled her to make friends all over the globe.
Allie kept her goals in mind, even during summer vacations. It wasn’t “all work and no play” though. She attended space camp as a preteen. Then, just before her freshman year, she jetted off to the south of France, to attend the L’Occitane Summer Perfume Program for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This program gave her the opportunity to explore the perfume industry as a potential career path. During her next summer vacation, she participated in the People to People Student Ambassador program, in which she visited France, Italy, and Malta. This international travel experience broadened her understanding of art, architecture, environmentalism, and different cultures. Some teenagers find it difficult to talk to the person sitting next to them in class, but Allie’s poise made it possible for her to communicate with people all around the world.
Independence and perseverance led Allie to new heights of adventure, each one loftier than the one before. In Colorado, she trained with Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind man to reach the top of Mount Everest. She learned technical skills for climbing treacherous mountains alongside a sighted partner, as well as how to harness the power of adversity. She put her skills to the test in South America, as she hiked through the Andes mountains and Machu Picchu in Peru on her next summer vacation.
Self-reliance enables one to interact with the world physically, but optimism is also necessary if a person wishes to make significant changes in the world. Allie possessed much more than average! Philanthropy began early for her. As a preteen, she developed a program that donated mobility canes for blind youth and adults in Africa. She established a partnership with Helen Keller International in New York City, in order to ship the canes to Africa.
During high school, she participated in the East Texas Food Bank Summer Feeding Program for Children, as well as the Meals on Wheels Program for Senior Adults. She handed out meals, but she also prepared short lessons on good nutrition for the kids, as well as visiting with the senior citizens to see that they were doing well.
After all that work and play, college in Houston Texas must have seemed like a breeze! She received a guide dog from The Seeing Eye in New Jersey, and years of independence skills practice paid off, as she lived on her own with ease. Allie majored in Psychology, as she had planned, and she minored in Theology. She read EBooks for her classes, only using Braille for Statistics. She acted as President of Psi Chi, the international Psychology Honors Society, where she coordinated fundraisers and volunteered in her community. She studied abroad in Rome, where she made friends and moved about the city with ease, thanks to her self-assurance and determination.
Now that her undergraduate studies are finished, Allie has applied to several graduate schools. She has a year off, before grad school, and she is planning to make the most of it, working or volunteering, and learning to ski.
For those who are starting college soon, Allie recommends registering early, by June if possible. This enables you to communicate with your professors, and ensure that all books and materials can be made accessible in time for the start of classes in the fall.
Allie is living proof that for a blind person, any dream can come true, no matter how big or small. Simply by living her life, she shows us that anything is possible. With careful planning, independence, perseverance, and optimism, the world is yours, to change for the better, to realize your dreams, and to be the best version of yourself that you can be! Thank you, Allie, for reminding the world that for a blind person, just as for anyone else, the sky is the limit!


Author: Jena

Hi there. Thanks for stopping by. I am a small-town Southern writer, book hoarder, technology enthusiast, unashamed cat lady, and huge fan of the Outlander series. I have a degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Tyler. I love nothing more than to paint pictures with words, and to make people happy, and if I can do both at the same time, all the better. Gratitude, simple joys, and optimism are the cornerstones of my life philosophy. I am totally blind, and I have non 24 sleep disorder, and temporal lobe epilepsy. These health issues make for some interesting times, but adversity has taught me wisdom I never would have learned otherwise. I hope you will enjoy my writing, and I thank you for taking the time to read it.

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