Cora Franze, MS ‘20
, was initially introduced to the field of blindness and visual impairment when she worked as a special education paraeducator at Jefferson Elementary School in Blaine, Minnesota.
At the time, she was paired with a girl who was totally blind and behind in visual impairment skills. The girl’s Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialist, Julie Kochevar, MS ‘05
, was a Salus University graduate. As a result, Franze heard a lot of good things about the University’s Orientation and Mobility program
“I loved seeing how that little girl grew in her ability to travel independently and her growth in other areas — she became more social, her braille skills got better — some of the changes that come with growing up,” said Franze. “I loved seeing how the mobility piece had a part in her life because of the influence of her instructor.”
Normally, Franze wouldn’t have needed to move to Pennsylvania to obtain an Orientation and Mobility degree from Salus. Aside from six weeks in the summer, where students are asked to be on campus to learn mobility skills, the O&M degree is mostly completed online.
As luck and fate would have it though, Franze’s husband Blake was pursuing a master’s degree in Divinity and he had chosen to study at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. That led the couple to move just a stone’s throw from the University’s Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, campus.
As it turned out, the pandemic has become the catalyst for Franze’s career to this point. The O&M program is supposed to take a year and a half to complete, but Franze’s internship ended early because of COVID-19, which had her struggling to acquire the hours she needed to complete her degree and graduate.
Franze was working at The Eye Institute of Salus University when she happened across a job board that had a position teaching mobility through a company called Nyman Associates, based in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania.
“I figured the worst thing that could happen was that they would laugh in my face. So I gave them a call and let them know I wasn’t certified yet but that I was working toward my hours,” said Franze. Instead, the company was delighted to work with her and she was able to secure a job even before she graduated.
She is now working as the first O&M instructor for the company, which has contracted her out to Saint Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments in Philadelphia, where her caseload consists of working with the entire student body consisting about 30 children.
Her training at Salus has enabled her to continue her career in a field for which she has a passion. “The staff at Salus are really great and the best in their field. I’ve come to appreciate it even more now that I’m in the field,” she said. “I was taught best practices at Salus so I’m able to really go to bat for my students who might not have had the services they deserve.”
And, she loves her current job and hopes to continue to expand her skill set as she works with the children at Saint Lucy. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot already in my career and I’m still able to still ask my Salus professors for advice,” said Franze. “I feel like Nyman Associates is a good place for me and I already feel like I’m making a difference with the kids there.”