T he owner of the daycare center was doubtful when the candidate showed up. How could a visually-impaired woman teach a daycare class of 2-year-olds? This situation is the kind of challenge Stephanie Claytor has met head-on all of her life. All she needed was the chance to demonstrate her abilities, and the job was hers. Stephanie has never been one to back down from a challenge just because she couldn’t physically see it. That’s no more evident than in her love for sports - she’s competed in ice skating, track and field, and snow skiing, and she enjoys whitewater rafting and rollerblading. But what really stirs Stephanie’s passion is showing people what the visually impaired can achieve. It all starts with giving people a chance, she says. The smallest baby born at The Ohio State University Hospitals in 1983 at just 1 pound, 3 ounces, Stephanie didn’t come home for four months. Her prematurity led to retina damage, but she could still see out of both eyes. Then at age 12, glaucoma stole the rest of her vision, leaving her able to detect only light and shadows. “It was a big adjustment,” she says. “I had to learn to read and write again.” Stephanie attended and graduated from the Ohio State School for the Blind, but she says the education she received wasn’t rigorous enough. “They babied us,” she says, which led to her struggling when she tried unsuccessfully to attend Ohio State University. Although she has worked since her first job as a camp leader at age 15, maintaining steady, full-time employment has been a challenge, despite her continued efforts to show employers her capabilities. It was during a break in employment that Stephanie came to Dress for Success Columbus for help and eventually joined Professional Women’s Group, where she has enjoyed a sisterhood of support at the monthly meetings. “It’s nice to meet a lot of different people from different backgrounds,” Stephanie says. “I like having the support of other women to stay strong and stay positive. Things can change, but you still have to keep pushing.” She finds time to volunteer at Dress for Success Columbus as well, making thank-you calls to donors and assembling personal care packages. She also served as the 2013 PWG 9 | SUCCESS LIVES HERE liaison to the Leadership Council, which supports the direction and programming of PWG. Stephanie’s determination and drive eventually led her to find success in the academic world. She found a tutor and then earned her associate’s degree in early childhood education from Ashford University, completing the degree online. She took two classes at a time, each 10 weeks long, with no breaks for an entire two years. She started her bachelor’s program in August. She continues to work as a daycare teacher part-time, but she says she would love to secure a full-time position working with children. Just as she has had to switch paths in the past, though, she is considering changing fields and pursuing customer service positions in call centers. Stephanie credits her very strong family support system with giving her the courage to meet life’s challenges. Her parents, grandparents, brother and cousin have been there for her. “I learned the value of what’s important,” she says, adding with a giggle, “I’m the favorite though. I’m the baby.” She still has many other dreams to fulfill-Waterskiing, kayaking and ballroom dancing are at the top of her list. She wants to start a non-profit organization for children and adults who need tutoring in math, writing and science.

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