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Young Writers on Stage: Abby Brown

The Young Writers Project and Vermont Public Radio presented Millennial Writers on Stage at the Burlington Book Festival on Saturday, September 22 in Burlington. High School Senior Abby Brown was one 16 Young Writers who presented their work. Abby is a ski racer at Stratton Mountain School. She has traveled to 15 countries, and she will be finishing a three-year internship at a Vermont-based newspaper before heading off to college in the fall.

Seeing Isn't Always Believing
Enter the lodge at Mount Snow and walk past Cub Camp, past Snow Camp, keep walking past Mountain Camp. You will come across a little room, smaller than it should be, with a paper sign on the door that says Ability Plus, a nonprofit organization for physically or mentally challenged individuals.

I am 16 years old, a skier and a volunteer with Ability Plus. I am a girl whose perspective of the world has been radically changed by people who have never actually seen the world for themselves.

Last winter, I skied with Jessie, a blind, autistic 21-year-old girl. She didn't know anything about me. She didn't care if I was six years younger or 60 years older. She just wanted to learn.

It does not take a lot to make a normal day of teaching into a day that will never be forgotten. Teaching Jessie to ski took two coaches, tons of commands, and a lot of patience. We would ski down beginner trails with Jessie in the middle. We would yell out commands; left, left, left, right! Right, right, right, left! Someone was talking the whole way down the trail.

Interestingly enough, the scariest thing to a blind person is silence. Not a steep hill or a patch of ice, because they can't see either of those. Panic strikes them when they can no longer hear the coach they are skiing with.

Jessie asked me lots of questions all day long: "What color is your helmet? How tall are you? Where are you from?"  Jessie wanted to have a picture of me in her mind; she wanted to see; my Facebook page in all its detail. I learned very quickly that for her life of 21 years, she had experienced the world through her other senses. After she had taken a hard fall, she said, "Abby, you wanna know something? I have a really a good sense of feel."

Jessie appreciated every minute of that day through the cold on her face, the smell of the chocolate waffles, the sounds of the crowds, and the occasional bump on the ground. She will never forget that day. Neither will I.

I woke up that morning planning on a day of teaching and did not realize that I would be the student. I learned about Jessie's life and what she does every day to feel, smell, and hear the world, to live life without sight. While skiing on a flat section of terrain, I went behind Jessie who was following the other coach. I closed my eyes, listened to the commands, and tried to ski for a minute with no sight. I have no idea how Jessie does it.

After a full day of learning, Jessie taught me that you do not always have to see to believe.

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