My name is Marybeth Melendez. My life has always been about new beginnings in spite of overarching obstacles. A perfect example happened in February of 2008. I was forty-one years old, a single mother of three, living on a disability pension, and barely surviving. My vision loss at the time was so significant that it made it impossible for me to work with the skills that I had. I have retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition of the eye that has left me totally blind. I knew that in today’s marketplace, I needed to reeducate myself, and arm myself with a pertinent and competitive degree.

And so, with barely forty dollars in my checking account, I jumped in head-first and enrolled as a freshman at the College of Staten Island. It was by far some of the most grueling and yet satisfying years of my life. Oh my God, there were so many late hours of researching for papers due the very next day, endless, sleepless nights, as I pored through audio textbooks in preparation for an exam, all the while raising my three kids, working three part time jobs at the college, running home to make dinner, do the dishes, and help with homework. Needless to say it was incredibly stressful and exhausting. I think I went to bed almost every night with tears in my eyes just from the sheer exhaustion. But ultimately? I did it! I graduated at the top of my class and am now studying for a master’s in the field of clinical mental health. Currently, I am interning at a halfway house for women in recovery from chemical addictions. I have finally come a full circle. I get to utilize all of my life experiences and skills, like my law and policy background from the days working at the law firm, and my business management and corporate skills. The experience of losing my sight helps me work with people who suffer from addictions and trauma. I’m able to break down their defenses and give them a platform and a voice so that they can open up about their conditions.

In 2014, Marybeth ran for the New York State Assembly in Staten Island and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn as the Democratic and Working Families candidate. She is currently working as a clinical case manger in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.