Where Are They Now: Sara Reuss, MS '17
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Where Are They Now: Sara Reuss, MS '17

Sara ReussWhen Sara Reuss, MS ‘17, CLVT, was in high school, her mother would force her to volunteer every summer at the Nebraska Center for the Education of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, a school in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

That’s where Reuss got her first taste of helping visually impaired and blind students, although she had decided at that point her career path would be a Physician Assistant (PA).

But after graduating from the University of Nebraska with a degree in anthropology and pre-health, Reuss’ mother passed away, so she decided to take some time off to figure out what she really wanted to do.

While continuing to apply to PA schools, the Nebraska Center had an opening in its residential program and Reuss thought she would give that a shot. That’s where she met Melissa Sadler, an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialist. 

“She was really inspiring and I thought O&M sounded like a really great job,” Reuss said. “You can work with students in the school, you can go out into the community, and teach in all these great environments.” 

In addition, the center’s superintendent, Sally Schreiner, also told Reuss that Nebraska had a shortage of O&M specialists and encouraged Reuss to explore that as a career path. Schreiner had also forged a relationship with the Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS) program at Salus University and with help of Fabiana Perla, MS ‘93, EdD, COMS, CLVR, chair of the Salus BLVS program, started a cohort in Nebraska. 

Reuss working with patient to navigate stairsThat was all it took. Reuss was now headed down the O&M path. 

“One of the things that I really loved about Salus is that it worked with me to accelerate my program because the instructors thought I could handle the classes. They gave me a pretty good caseload, so I was able to complete my program in two years while working a full-time job,” said Reuss. “The other thing about Salus is that if you have a dream place that you want to go or something that you want to learn, they’re going to help you do it.” 

One of her dream places was the Helen Keller National Center on Long Island, New York. The summer before her 2017 fall graduation, Reuss was able to work at the Keller Center under the mentorship of Eugene Bourquin, BS, MA, DHSc, a renowned expert in the O&M field and an adjunct professor at Salus.

Jamie Maffit, MS ‘06, COMS, CLVT, even came out to New York for Reuss’ observations. Her guidance and love for the profession[4]  helped Reuss continue her academic career at Salus and add on the CLVT to her repertoire. 

Sara Reuss walking with a Guide DogReuss would eventually land right back where she started, taking a job as an O&M specialist at the Nebraska Center for the Education of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. During her first year there is when she continued her education and added her CLVT certificate.  

Reuss wanted to attend Hines Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in Chicago for its CLVT (Conventional Low Vision Rehabilitation) program, and Kerry Lueders, MS ‘99, COMS, TVI, CLVT, assistant professor and director of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Program and Programs for Teachers and Children with Visual and Multiple Disabilities at Salus, helped pave the way. Reuss became only the second Salus grad to complete a low vision internship at Hines. 

The Nebraska native hopes to stay in her current position for a while and since her home state has an O&M shortage for adults that may be part of her future path. But, she likes what she does and where she does it, working with students from ages three to 21. 

“I think a lot of my future involves advocating, hopefully some research and maybe even writing papers on the different instructions I’ve seen for students with multiple disabilities. That is a very low-served population and is oftentimes neglected when it comes to O&M,” she said.

But there’s no question that the educational foundation she received at Salus — the diversity of the classes that gave her a holistic approach to education — has served her well to this point.

Sara Reuss Hines VA“It didn’t really matter what age that person was, Salus really taught us how to take that person as a person, assess them and come up with customized plans,” she said. “We really got a background in techniques and we worked through multiple manuals to tell us how to use whatever technique you wanted to use. But it always came back to the person as a whole and having to customize things for them.” 

That toolbox of information and resources, Reuss said, has served her — and will continue to serve her — well throughout her career. 

“When you’re out in the field and you’re able to apply it all, I didn’t feel stressed at all when I started my job at the center,” she said. “I knew that Salus had prepared me and I also knew that if I needed anything I could contact them at any time and have someone to ask immediately for suggestions.”

If you'd like to share your story, contact us at communications@salus.edu.