No Holds Barred – Part One

Much of being a teenager involves juggling responsibilities and learning skills to advance in life. One McAllen high school student is doing just that, with one extra hurdle to jump over. Hannah Mackenzie has the story.

Between classes, extra-curricular activities and college applications, being a high school student can be tough. Now imagine doing it all while blindfolded. Well, that’s basically how Sal Villa lives his live every day. I got the chance to meet up with this remarkable teenager, to tell his story. Here is part one of ‘No Holds Barred’.

Sal Villa is a typical 16 year-old-boy. He plays percussion in his high school band.
He’s athletic, and he’s got big aspirations… there’s just one small thing that sets him apart from most: he’s blind.
Sal was born with retinopathy of prematurity or ROP. ROP is an eye disorder that primarily affects premature babies.
According to the National Eye Institute, ROP is one of the most common causes of vision loss in children. About 14,000 to 16,000 infants born each year in the United States are affected by some degree of ROP. Of that group, about 400 to 600 become legally blind. But Sal hasn’t let being a statistic stand in his way.
Sal keeps up with current clinical studies, hoping one day, he’ll be able to see the world for the first time.
Eunice, Sal’s mother, says he’s been active throughout his childhood, defying the odds and taking on life’s obstacles, all while being visually impaired… from learning how to ride a bicycle to flying on airplanes alone. Much of Sal’s upbringing revolved around milestones and challenges his mother has also had to face.
Exploring those options wasn’t always easy.
Eunice turned to different foundations for help and assistance with learning how to care for a child with disabilities. The main thing she says has gotten her family through it all: support.
It’s through that support that Sal is now weighing his options for college. The high school junior wants to attend the University of Texas at Austin, and despite his mother’s pleas, Sal is eager to leave the nest.
Sal says his mom has been his biggest cheerleader, there for him every step of the way. But he’s also got an internal drive that keeps him going.

Sal finds motivation in those who doubt him. Every day he strives to prove those doubters wrong. He’s active in the community, he’s a part of the Memorial high school band and ROTC program, plus he plays tennis and boxes. Tomorrow we will take you through Sal’s typical day, in part two of “No Holds Barred”.

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