This Is Not Goodbye…

Heaven & her TVI, Lisa Fiorentino

Pictured: (l-r) Heaven Vallejos and Lisa Fiorentino, TVI — Photo courtesy of: Lisa Fiorentino






Thanks for giving me a great year as the DCYS recipient. The money from the scholarship helped me with a lot of things like swim lessons and race registration fees. It’s been a fun and educational year. I have finished two triathlons, a mud run, and many other foot races. I also did archery and judo. There are so many other things I am looking forward to like, bungee jumping, riding in a plane and even snow skiing. I hope that the next scholarship winner uses the money for something they enjoy and I wish them good luck with the blog. I will be looking at the blog to see the fun things the winner is doing. I will be keeping in touch and letting everybody know how I am doing and all the fun things going on in my life.

Until next time,


A note from Heaven’s teacher:

This has been an amazing year for Heaven. Receiving the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship enabled her to fulfill many of her goals. Heaven is an adventurous young lady, and I have never heard her refuse to try something new at least once. Her list of things she wants to do grows weekly and with the support of the people around her and organizations such as CTEBVI she will be able to experience many exciting things in life. Heaven is only one of the many adventuresome, fun loving, and kind hearted kids in our blind and vision impaired community. Thank you to CTEBVI and the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship for helping to make their dreams and aspirations a reality.

Lisa Fiorentino

Teacher of the Visually Impaired


Exit Interview

Heaven Vallejos

Pictured: Heaven Vallejos — Photo by: The Fresno Bee

As the year of Heaven Vallejos comes to an end, we thought we’d find out what  her experience has been like and asked her to share her thoughts in this fun CTEBVI “exit interview”:

CTEBVI:  How did you feel when you won the scholarship?
HV: I was pretty excited about it! I was happy I won it so that I could pay for some swim lessons. I had never won a scholarship before!

CTEBVI: What did you use the scholarship money for this year
HV: I used it for swimming lessons to help me compete in triathlons. I also used it for race registrations.

CTEBVI: What did you learn and why was it important to take these lessons?
HV:I learned how to stay under water for 30 seconds. I also learned the breaststroke and freestyle. I used those strokes for the triathlons.

CTEBVI: How do you feel now that your year as the DCYS recipient is over?
HV: Good. I enjoyed what I got to do. Also,it’s kind of sad because the year is over, but I hope the new winner gets to use the money for something enjoyable to them.

CTEBVI: What are three words you can use to describe this experience?
HV: Awesome, amazing, and fun.

CTEBVI: What was your highlight about this year?
HV: Doing the blog/vlog. I especially liked doing the heartbreaker video.

CTEBVI: What did you learn about yourself since receiving the scholarship?
HV: I learned that I need to build up my arm muscles so that I can hang on to a rope longer and let go when I’m over the water and not the rocks! Arm strength is good for the obstacles on a mud run, too! I learned that there are scholarships for visually impaired kids like me, and that is cool!

CTEBVI: What advice would you give to future DCYS recipients?
HV: Use the scholarship for something you love!

CTEBVI: What will you miss the most about the blog?
HV: Making videos and putting pictures up is fun.

CTEBVI: What do you want people to know about you?
HV: I am a good person. I am caring. I love sports! I like classic rock music and my favorite performer is Stevie Wonder!

CTEBVI: Anything else you would like to share?
HV: There are a lot of things going on in my life and it’s hard to pick. But, if I had to I would say that school gets more fun every year. If things seem hard I try to think about them in a different way. You should try different things even if they seem hard.

CTEEBVI: You have so many fans who want to know how you’re doing and what you’re up to. We would love to contact you from time to time to update us and we’ll post it to our social media accounts. Is this ok?
HV: Yeah! I would like that!

Winter Break Recap

Pictured: (l-r) Heaven Vallejos and her brother at the Jingle Bell 5k

Pictured: (l-r) Heaven Vallejos and her brother at the Jingle Bell 5k — Courtesy of Heaven Vallejos

Happy New Year!

Hi everybody. Hope you all had happy holidays. Before break I ran the Jingle Bell Run. I ran the 5k and my brother walked the 2 mile course. The run was on Christmas Tree Lane which was decorated with ornaments, lights and even a huge neon sign of the world that changed from the world to a big peace sign. It meant world peace.

My break was fun. During break I was in a Christmas play for our church. I played Mary and when the boy playing Joseph handed me the baby Jesus, he handed it to me upside down, but it was ok because nobody in the audience noticed. I also went ice skating over break. It was the second time I have ice skated, and I only fell three times – haha!

My family and I made tamales for Christmas. We do it every year. It’s kind of hard because everything is homemade, so it’s good to have a lot of people there, so that different groups can have different jobs. They were delicious!

For Christmas, I got a new iPhone and a karaoke machine. I have used my new iPhone to take videos and pictures. I would like to learn how to use Google Maps. My brother, Joseph and I sang Frozen on the karaoke machine. It was fun!

On New Year’s we stayed home and watched the ball drop on TV and some family came over to watch with us. We made a toast at 9:00 PM just in case one of us fell asleep before midnight. I used to fall asleep early, but now I can stay up.

When school started after break, I signed up for Oral Interpretation. Oral Interpretation is when, as a group, we memorize a story and recite it together with hand motions. We go to a festival and the highest score we can get is a ‘Superior’. I practice three days a week at school during lunch.

I also signed up for drama. I practice for drama three days a week before school. My teachers are calling me ‘Marcia Brady’ because I’m an over achiever. Haha! The play we are doing for drama is ‘Annie Junior”

Finally, I will answer Taylor’s question she sent me. Taylor asked me how I run three miles. Running three miles is easy if you practice enough. If I am running on a road, I use a tether with my guide. This can be anything that the guide and I can both hold one end of to stay connected. I have used shoestrings, rubber bands, yarn, and even a piece of rope. If I am running on grass or in an open area, I do not use a tether. My guide can just tell me which direction to go or describe the surfaces I will be running on. But, if you don’t use a tether, you had better remember your right and left or else you might end up running into a fence like I did when I went right instead of left one time. It was ok, because it didn’t hurt that much – we laughed about it!

Until next time,




Excerpt from the Spring 2014 Journal


There is so much to see and learn at conference. Of course, the workshops are planned far in advance. The exhibit hall is full of the latest in tools and toys. There is no lack of food or time for visiting. The announcements of programs and job openings and events fill the information board. But here’s something that has become an integral part of conference that has not been advertised enough: Sharing tips. Every year there are dozens of new and old ideas shared among the people attending conference. Sometimes the ideas are actually written down by a member who is happy to make dozens of copies to pass along. This year, the new/old idea came from Angela Van Appelen from Sweetwater Union. Angela shared the recipe for making colored puffy paints for tactiles. The handout she provided even showed a squiggle of the colored paint. Thanks so much, Angela, for your generosity and forethought.

For the entire recipe or to access the entire spring journal, click here:

Running for Sundaes!

Heaven & Sundae

Pictured: Heaven Vallejos and her post-5k sundae. Photo courtesy of: Heaven Vallejos

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I went to my Grandma’s house. My dad deep fried a turkey and it was good. We ate candied yams with marshmallows on top and pumpkin cake. This year I’m thankful for family and friends

Heaven & Lisa

Pictured: (l-r) Heaven Vallejos, Lisa Fiorentino. Photo courtesy of: Heaven Vallejos/Lisa Fiorentino

On November 2, I ran the Two Cities 5K here in Fresno with my braille teacher. The race was fun and some people wore costumes. This race is usually only a half-marathon and marathon race, but this was the first time they had a 5K. A 5K is 3.1 miles. After the race they gave us free brownie sundaes, breakfast, and I got a free massage! After my twin brother heard I got a brownie sundae, he said he wanted to run next year, too. My next race is on December 7 and it is the Mara-Fun-Run in Sacramento. I ran this race last year for the first time. It was very cold, but fun! After the race I went to the Youth Paralympic Sport Experience where we did judo and goal ball.

My birthday is Thursday December 4th. I will be 11 years old. I’m having a party at my house after school. We are going to get a piñata! I like it when it breaks – it is like candy falling from the sky! If everyone wants to we will go ice skating too.

I want everybody to know that you can send me questions I will be happy to answer them. I have enjoyed writing for my blog. I hope it helps other visually impaired kids get excited about sports. I like sports because it makes me feel good. In the future I would like to try snow skiing and power lifting. Power lifting is where you lift weights in three different positions. I want to power lift because then if I ever have to lift a couch or a car I will be able to and I would be able to lift my cousins when they ask me to!
I will blog again in January. I hope everyone has happy holidays and I’ll be in touch in 2015!
Until then,

What exactly is the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship?

ctebvi logo

As adults, most of us think of scholarships as having something to do with academics – knowing the funds will likely be used for things such as tuition, books or the like.  So when we hear of a youth scholarship opportunity for our BVI students, likely your mind goes directly to the description above. Lets be honest, you thought, “eh…that sounds nice…”  Right? Or you might be thinking that the department of rehab already covers what they might request. But wait…because that isn’t exactly what we are offering.* Well, not exactly.

So what exactly does this Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship offer???

SO MUCH MORE than you think, my friends! The Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship (DCYS) wants to give BVI students a chance to:

  • Explore what makes them “tick.” Is it sports, art, music, cooking???
  • Inspire their creativity and individuality.
  • Discover who they really are.
  • Further investigate areas of their academics they need assistance with.
  • Help them to become the most well-rounded, best versions of themselves!

It’s not everyday that a scholarship opportunity exists for our students that encourages (and welcomes) the development of not just academics, but social skills! What?!

CTEBVI’s Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship is just that scholarship you and your students are looking for and what a great opportunity it is! So please take a look at the application and encourage your student to apply!


  • If submitting via email: application and supporting attachments are due by Friday, February 27, 2015
  • If submitting via snail mail, application and supporting attachments must be postmarked by: Wednesday, February 25, 2015

* ok to be fair, the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship absolutely promotes academic development, but we want you all to think outside of the box!