This evening we got to meet Shonny Williams who is a social worker at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh. The school was established in 1845 and was the 8th school for the blind in the USA. It was moved to it’s current location in 1923. The mission of The Governor Morehead School (GMS) is to successfully educate North Carolina’s youth with visual impairments to be productive, independent, confident citizens and life-long learners. This mission includes the responsibility to assist in the provision of consultative and technical services to other public and private state and national organizations in an effort to meet the needs of the students. Services of the school are supported by state and federal funding and are available at no charge to local school systems, students or families. GMS is the only state supported school in North Carolina that specializes solely in comprehensive educational and residential programs designed specifically for students with visual impairments.
Currently there are 38 students enrolled but they hope to add about 5 more soon. At one time there were over 300. This could be the result of consistent talk about de-funding GMS and closing the school down which has been covered in the news repeatedly. Parents are fearful of having to go through a long process of getting admitted and then having to go through that process again in a year if the school is closed down.
Fortunately, so far there has been enough support from lions and others to prevent that from happening. Additionally, GMS has made some changes to adapt as well. For example, Shonny attends many conferences to get the word out that the school is not closing. GMS has also started sharing the campus with Wake Young Womans Leadership Academy. They recently signed a 20 year lease which will help keep the doors open. Finally, they are discussing the possibility of removing the admissions program to make it much easier to attend to attract more students. But the battle is not over and we need to continue to put pressure on the General Assembly and the Governor to keep the school open. Please consider writing to them yourself as well.
Since Lions focus on helping the blind and visually impaired many area clubs have assisted the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. Some examples are: Downtown Lions Club has provided Christmas gifts, a Mudcats outing and some scholarships, Raleigh has provided free passes to their annual horse show, Cary helps with financial contributions, the NC Lions Foundation (now known as Brighter Visions) has also sponsored various events and provided financial help. The Apex Lions Club helps, too. Every year we feed blind and visually impaired students, their teachers and the volunteers from the school for free at the NC State Fair. The students love to get their fair food and mimic “Mr. Pie Man”.
And this past summer we had the opportunity to sponsor a trip to Emerald Pointe Water Park for 60 students – more than half of whom had never been to a water park in their entire lives. Shonny said that was a very difficult trip to coordinate and there were lots of questions and concerns. But in the end it was more than worth it because the kids said it was the best trip they ever had and to this day they are still talking about how much fun they had there. For those of us who can see, we take things like a trip to the water park for granted. But for someone who might never get the chance to go, it’s an experience of a lifetime. Hearing about this warms my heart and makes me very proud to be a Lion!
If you would like to learn more about the Governor Morehead School for the Blind you can contact Shonny Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.