Telmo Falope was 16 years old when he lost his vision due to leber hereditary optic neuropathy, an inherited form of vision loss. In the beginning, it was difficult for him to accept the loss of his sight and the limitations he felt were placed on his future because of it. However, with the strong support of his parents, encouragement from his sister, an uplifting counselor at DBS, and the desire to reach for the stars, he has been able to achieve far more than he dreamed.
After Telmo learned how to live independently with his visual impairment, he began to see the many opportunities ahead of him. While in high school, Telmo wanted to learn Spanish and French, but the classes were full. He wasn’t going to let that hold him back so he began studying Russian instead. While not his first choice, Telmo became fully engrossed with the Russian language and culture with the help of his Russian teacher, who made the class very interesting. Telmo loved the sound of the language, and he was even able to read his favorite book Crime and Punishment, in Russian.
After finishing high school (2012) at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, he received his AA degree at a community college before venturing off to the University of Florida (UF). At UF he became even more serious about his education and pursued his passion for Russian language and culture. Telmo pursued the opportunity to study abroad and he was accepted into a year-long program in Russia and Kazakhstan.
While studying abroad, Telmo learned he was the first visually impaired student that many of the teachers in his program overseas ever had. Although this created quite a few challenges, he was able to gain and learn a few things. He learned how to be more understanding to those that were unfamiliar with his needs and how to be a better advocate for himself as a person with a disability. Most importantly, he learned Russian in Russian countries, which is exactly what he set out to do!
Having graduated summa cum laude from UF with a BA in Russian, Telmo continues to be optimistic and proactive about his future. He gives credit for how far he’s come to those that have encouraged and supported him since the very beginning. When asked where he sees himself in the next five to ten years, he says he hopes to have received his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School and to live in a major city where he can practice international and immigration law and have a beautiful family of his own.
Telmo will tell you that he’s been able to overcome some of life’s many challenges by “not giving excuses, but always trying to give results.”
We can all learn so much from his determination, positive attitude, and persistent hard work.
Telmo Falope is a 2012 FSDB graduate. Read the original story in The Visionary Newsletter (October 2019) by the Florida State Division of Blind Services, which includes Telmo's narrative, "Returning Home After a Year in the Former Soviet Republics."
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, or deafblind. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. For a campus tour or to inquire about eligibility for enrollment, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information, visit www.fsdbk12.org