By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Brian Mucyo isn't one to let anything prevent him from pursuing his goals and advocating for what he is passionate about, even if that means having a jam-packed schedule.
The Grand Canyon University Honors College senior is finishing up his bachelor’s degree in finance and economics, along with his minors in Christian studies and pre-law, while continuing to work with students in the Learning Lounge and ramping up his studies for the Law School Admission Test this winter. On top of being a dedicated and ambitious student, he recently was selected as a recipient of this year’s National Federation of the Blind of Arizona (NFBAZ) scholarship and was chosen to become a board member of the Arizona Association of Blind Students (AABS).
In April, he submitted the documentation for the award and scholarship, including a letter of recommendation from Honors College Project Manager Luke Amargo.
For Mucyo, who lost all but less than 10% of the vision in his only remaining eye as a child, submitting the application was less about winning and more about how he could become more involved in spreading awareness when it comes to issues that affect people with visual impairments.
“I honestly just want to be more involved. It’s great to be at GCU, but the one thing that really does hit me hard sometimes is that aspect of there’s 20,000-plus students but there’s no one else, really, that has even remotely the same challenges as you,” Mucyo said. “Before, for the longest time, I was the only one. You kind of go through it, but you know there are times where someone’s like, ‘What’s going on?’ and no matter how you explain it, they’ll want to get it, but they won’t necessarily be able to.”
Part of the application process involved Mucyo attending The NFBAZ state conference. It was an experience he’ll never forget.
“I’ve never been in a place with so many other blind people,” he said. “Part of it was even interesting because it was the first time I spent an entire weekend meeting new people and nobody asking me, ‘So, actually, how much do you see?’ because that’s not on anyone’s mind.”
Receiving the award not only helped introduce Mucyo to others like him but also allowed him to feel a different kind of pride that he has not often felt before.
“The thing that makes this award kind of special to me is that it’s an award where, sure, I’m being recognized for the things I do, the effort I put into school and the passion I have for everything that I do. But it’s not one of those awards that I’ll be getting where it kind of leads with, ‘Despite the fact that he’s blind, these are all the things he’s doing and that’s so incredible. That’s why we’re giving it to him,’” Mucyo said. “To me, I feel like it’s affirming that what makes me special isn’t that I’m blind and somehow overcame it. No, it’s just who I am as a person.”
As this year’s award winner and a new member of the AABS, Mucyo can help make an impact by not only sharing knowledge with the community but by scheduling events throughout the state, organizing fundraisers and working in advocacy.
October is Meet the Blind Month, and Mucyo and his fellow board members have been spreading awareness through various statewide events. He also hopes to reach out to different generations of people with vision impairments.
“It’s easy to kind of fall into this place of like, ‘I’m so alone’ … it’s not that big of a group, but still you’re not alone,” Mucyo said. “We should link with the older generations because there’s a lot we can learn from them, but then we should also link with the younger generations because there is so much that we can do for them.”
Mucyo hopes to educate people about what actions and speech could be considered insensitive, and even potentially dangerous, to those with visual impairments.
“One big thing for me is that I realize what causes those weird responses or attention. Someone meets you, and the first thing they see is that you’re blind. There’s just so much they already assume before they get to know you. All of that, to me, goes back to just ignorance,” he said. “I feel like that gives us two options: It’s either you honestly turn against everybody and it’s you against the world -- which, where is that going to get you? -- or you take the opportunities you’re given and you spread awareness, you spread education and you teach people what they don’t know.
“I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be able to do something about that. I’m just excited because it is a group of, even just the board members, it’s a group of students that really are passionate about this.”
Part of the award for the winner is in an expense-paid trip to attend the national conference. It's where they have a chance at receiving the national scholarship and award.
This year’s National Federation for the Blind Conference is this summer in Houston. Mucyo, as the Arizona chapter’s recipient, would have a chance to apply alongside other state recipients from around the country.
“Just even being recognized as someone who could have an influence in something, like that alone is humbling,” Mucyo said. “At the same time, I’m excited because it’s a platform that you can do so much with and there’s so much good we can do from it.”
How is he going to handle such a busy senior year? Mucyo said it comes down to staying honest with himself about how much time he has, making sure his time reflects his priorities, and surrounding himself with people like Honors College Associate Dean Breanna Naegeli and the rest of the college, who will help keep him on track to achieving his goals.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].