San Antonio – A Steele High School junior with a visual impairment is hoping her story will encourage others to overcome their obstacles in life.
Jazmine Harper, 16, has always been visually impaired since she was born, but was diagnosed with glaucoma at age 8.
Nevertheless, she hasn’t let her condition stop her from being active.
Jazmine Harper is in Girl Scouts, on multiple swim teams, the marching band and the orchestra. She also plays the piano, saxophone, violin, guitar and clarinet.
“Even if she wasn’t visually impaired, that is a lot to take on and then to try to balance it and be responsible enough to give each one the time necessary and keep her grades up,” said Jennifer Harper, her mother. “I mean, you couldn’t be any more prouder than that.”
When Jazmine Harper was born, doctors told her parents she had a tumor behind her eye.
“We were very concerned because her doctor wasn’t able to get with us right away so we had to wait a couple of days,” Jennifer Harper said. “Fortunately, it wasn’t a tumor. It was a cataract. To hear it was a cataract, I was relieved. I thought that is nothing, so we have dealt with it head on. She doesn’t know any different and I have never treated her any different.”
For 11 years of her life, Jazmine Harper had to wear an eye patch, going to school and learning how to adapt.
“I thought it was normal to not see the board,” Jazmine Harper said. “I thought it was normal for the pictures to shake in books. I thought they were supposed to shake.”
Jazmine Harper has lost all of her peripheral vision and is now legally blind.
“In the 10th grade, I kept running into poles so I learned how to use a walking cane until someone found me and could give me proper training.”
Being visually impaired was very isolating for Jazmine Harper as she became the subject of bullying, but she found a way to overcome that.
“It is not fun being bullies,” Jazmine Harper said. “I don’t wish that on anybody to have that experience. Now, I have a group of friends, I do what I enjoy and I can see, kind of. I am not totally blind, so I am happy for that.”
She found a love in swimming because she says it’s challenging.
“She swims by counting,” said Jennifer Harper. “She doesn’t need to see the wall. She is using balls at the end of the lanes that are bright orange that could catch her eyes so she will know when to turn.”
Her biggest passion is with music.
“I suppose it is a time of escape,” Jazmine Harper said. “Listening to music, learning music, playing music… it is peaceful. You literally can go to a different world and imagine things as you hear it and play it.”
One day, Jazmine Harper said she would love to be a music instructor in the future. In the meantime, she is hard at raising awareness about visual impairment to educate everyone, including her teachers, about the obstacles they face on a daily basis.
“She found that a lot of it was that people just don’t understand it,” Jennifer Harper said. “So we started to make her understand what was wrong with her and she would explain it to others and so education and educating everyone about visual impairment was one of the big things we would discuss.”
Overtime, Jazmine Harper has not only found her voice, but she has gained her confidence, which is why she wants others to never be stopped by anything.
“Everybody has their own battles, so don’t let yours stop what you are trying to accomplish,” Jazmine Harper said.