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Transforming Adversity into Leadership

Sarah Harris received the American Council of the Blind’s 2017 JPMorgan Chase Leadership Fellow Award in July at the ACB National Convention. She was excited to be attending her first ACB convention, and welcomed the opportunity to take her leadership skills to the next level.

Life for Sarah Harris has always been filled with unexpected challenges, yet she reliably demonstrates the power of resilience. Her motto could be: It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that makes the difference.

Sarah had to grow up fast. After her parents divorced, her mom imposed no rules, preferring to be more of a friend than a mom. Sarah took on the adult responsibilities of making sure the bills were paid on time. And then, a fatal car accident changed her life. Her mother lost control of the car, sending it over a cliff. Sarah and her dog climbed away to safety. Although she was only 13, Sarah planned her mother’s funeral.

She cheated death once again when in 2002, a car speeding through a red light crashed into hers. “At the hospital, they stopped counting the number of bones I’d broken,” she said. “But a few millimeters more, and it could have killed me or left me brain dead.” Sarah survived, but the accident ended her ability to see.

“I’d always thought of myself as being in control. But now, I needed to learn to accept help from others. I needed to learn how to live as a blind person.”

Today, however, she’s back in control, and has a new motto: Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Her husband Josh and 13-year old daughter Carson are cheering her on, encouraging her to pursue her dreams.

As her leadership prowess emerges, Sarah is rapidly rising through the ranks: she recently accepted the role of president of her local chapter of the California Council of the Blind, (a state affiliate of ACB). She was also chosen to receive a 2017 ACB Leadership Fellow Award, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase. “She is a strong voice for all the innovative changes we are implementing,” said CCB President Judy Wilkinson. “This will give her a chance to broaden her horizons so she can come back to us even more accomplished and resourceful. We’ll definitely be seeing her on the ACB national stage in the very near future.”

Photo caption:
Sarah Harris is President of Fresno CCB Chapter. She has a job helping people with disabilities learn about assistive technologies, and she serves on a disability transportation advisory board in her city. Her dream is to one day start a business and offer employment opportunities for people with impaired vision.