Amber Clark ‘23TVI, MS ‘16
, realized right away something was wrong. She had just finished an evening braille class and for no apparent reason, found herself short of breath.
So, she went directly to the emergency room where an examination revealed that at age 31, a month after she being married and right in the middle of getting her Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) certificate in the Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS)
program at Salus University, she had suffered a heart attack.
“I contacted my professors from the hospital and asked them what to do. They said if I needed to drop out, they would understand,” said Clark. “But at the point that I was in the program where I didn’t think I could drop out so I asked the professors for an extension. I took an extension on a few assignments and completed the semester virtually.”
But that wasn’t the only complication she would encounter. After her release from the hospital, doctors fitted Clark with a heart monitor she needed to wear for a month. Unfortunately, she was born with a congenital heart defect — a heart murmur — but it had not created any issues up until that point.
After a month of wearing the heart monitor, she returned to the doctor, which indicated there was still some irregularities. Doctors ordered more tests and found out she was pregnant with her second child.
In fact, doctors believe Clark was already a few weeks pregnant when she had the heart attack. Her son arrived via C-section in May 2022, just a few weeks before her summer classes started. Her husband stayed home with the children so she could complete her studies. A year later — in fact on her son’s first birthday May 25, 2023 — Clark will graduate with her master’s certificate in TVI.
The long and challenging road to graduation began years ago. Clark had graduated in 2014 with a degree in psychology/mental health from Southern New Hampshire University. She then attended Salus and earned a master’s in Orientation and Mobility (O&M) in 2016.
“What sold me on O&M was that I loved the personal aspect of it,” said Clark. “I love the idea that you’re working one-on-one with somebody and that you’re not just giving them exercises to do. You’re really getting into the nitty-gritty with them.”
She worked with patients for several years and then decided she wanted to teach. She enrolled in the Salus TVI program in the fall of 2021, just a few months before she had the heart attack.
“I loved Salus for O&M because when I graduated I felt like a real professional, that I knew things that other people who didn’t go there weren’t taught,” said Clark. “When I returned for TVI, I was learning new stuff about the field that I’d already been in.”
The last of eight children, Clark grew up in a challenging household in a difficult neighborhood. The family, she said, was very poor. But Clark had promised herself as a teenager that if she could find a profession that could help one child’s life be better than the childhood she had, she would pursue that profession.
“I want to be a somebody in the field. I want to be able to say that I changed lives,” she said. “I love to teach and I think it’s one of the most fun things ever. I truly want every kid that I serve to succeed and I want to be able to say that I put in all this work and I became this person who is actually able to help people effectively.”
Clark calls the road to commencement “a wild ride.” But is grateful for the support she’s had through the difficult times. She started a job with the School District of Philadelphia before graduation and will continue to work there after receiving her diploma.
“I’m really happy that I have the support of the people at Salus and my family. They genuinely cared about me as a person and not just a number,” said Clark. “Their expectations of me sort of pushed me and even when I thought my health wouldn’t let me complete the degree, they encouraged me. I just hope that I’m able to use what happened to me to encourage my students that they can do anything.