After beating a severe medical condition to get to college, a Converse College freshman’s efforts are being recognized by the White House. Meredith Boyce, a Spartanburg native, is one of 11 Champions of Change who will be honored at the White House on Tuesday. She made it to college after a brain aneurysm in 2011 caused her to lose most of her vision.
“After this, I thought, was (college) going to be an option for me?” she said.
The aneurysm in Boyce’s brain, medically known as an arteriovenous malformation, left her with epilepsy, neuropathy and a scarred optic nerve, leading to her loss of vision. She is “partially sighted,” with roughly 15 percent vision left in her right eye, while being totally blind in her left eye.
“For me, a lot of the process is going through the stages of grief losing my sight. I’m still slowly losing my vision,” she said. “I wake up some days and I’m having a bad vision day. I’ll be like, ‘I have to use my cane today,’ and that makes me angry.”
After recovering from emergency neurosurgery, Boyce transferred from Spartanburg Day School to the S.C. School for the Deaf and the Blind (SCSDB) to take advantage of the assistance the school could provide. As a sophomore, she enrolled in the School for the Blind’s mainstream program at Spartanburg High School.
While at SCSDB, Boyce was able to capitalize on her fascination with technology. The school needed help maintaining laptops used by students. Boyce helped her fellow students fix computer issues and optimize their software before running diagnostics and repairing students’ computers at the school. As a junior, Boyce enrolled in the computer science program at the Daniel Morgan Technology Center, where she was the only girl in the program.
“I had a substitute teacher tell me that girls don’t do computer science,” she said. “I thought, ‘Don’t ever tell me that.’”
By her senior year, Boyce served as part of SCSDB’s transition to a one-to-one technology program as a peer technology coach, helping students and some faculty get acquainted with certain devices.
After college, Boyce intends to pursue a career in accessible technology. She said she wants to design, implement and teach people how to use technology that makes life easier for people with vision or auditory disabilities.
Boyce is looking forward to her trip to Washington, D.C. She gets to bring three guests to the White House, and chose her mother, her roommate, Sarah Blevins, and her cousin, who works in the area. When she was first nominated, Boyce said, it was hard to believe it was real.
“I actually thought it was junk mail when I was nominated,” she said. “I saw the email was from the White House, and I was like, sure it is.” It wasn’t until the third try that Boyce realized the White House was actually trying to contact her to get her to RSVP to the event this week.
She said the recognition is an overwhelming honor. Boyce will participate in panel discussions with other honorees that will be streamed live on the Internet — a difficult task for an introvert, she said. “It’s going to be fun times,” she said. “It’s exciting — exciting and terrifying.”
This article was written by Zach Fox of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal