The first time most people meet Chandarya Chhuon, they can’t tell how much she’s overcome to make it to graduation. Her kind personality and eagerness to share her future plans shine brighter than her visual impairment.
Chandarya, who goes by Darya, said she was born prematurely in Cambodia and struggled to breathe on her own for the first few months of her life.
“Someone had to manually pump oxygen into my lungs,” she explained. “A nurse had been doing it for hours at a time and dozed off, so I didn’t get enough oxygen. When she woke up she tried to pump as much oxygen as she could, but it was too much and it damaged my retinas.”
She is considered legally blind, but says, “Sometimes people who don’t know me don’t notice, but I try to do the best I can. I’ve been dealing with this my entire life.”
After immigrating to the U.S. when she was eleven years old, she began fifth grade at Sunrise Elementary and is still friends with people from her class and is walking with one of them at graduation.
In the fall, she will begin at Everett Community College to study business marketing or counseling.
“My future is bright and I have high goals,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunities in college I’m excited for.”