EducationThe White Plains Examiner

Graduating Senior Overcomes Limitations to Create Bright Future

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Matthew Welling holds up $60,000 check he received from Garden of Dreams Foundation.

Matthew Welling is a diehard sports fan and an aspiring broadcaster who will be graduating from White Plains High School next week. He will be attending Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications in the fall.

He has already coined some catch phrases, such as “It sounded like a good play.”

What makes that clever is Welling, 18, was born with a rare genetic disorder called osteopetrosis that left him legally blind. He can only see light and shadows from his left eye and has no peripheral vision from his right eye; he can’t see anything past the tip of his nose.

But his disability hasn’t stopped Welling from taking regular classes during his years in the district with the help of an eye pad and a magnifier, sprinting on the track team, participating in band as a drummer and being co-president of the high school songwriters club.

“Matthew is an inspiration, not only because he has overcome so many obstacles, but because he possesses the self-discipline and determination to be the very best he can be in all of his endeavors,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca, who noted Welling has always referred to him as “big guy” since he could see his silhouette coming down the hall.

“Matt’s energy and positive outlook light up every room and he has helped to remind us that, with the right support, self-determination and commitment to the unique needs of each student, the limits to which they can rise and achieve are few,” Ricca said. “I have no doubt that he will continue to make White Plains proud in all that he seeks to accomplish.

“Still, one of Matthew’s greatest gifts is that he, even as a young adult, recognizes that every day is an opportunity to rise and lift up others whenever possible.”

Other than Ricca, two of Welling’s biggest cheerleaders are his dad, Michael Welling, and his grandmother, Michele Schoenfeld, who served as district clerk for 40 years and now works part-time on special projects.

“He’s the happiest kid. He has a wonderful attitude. He’s a very positive kid,” Schoenfeld said. “He does amazing things on his own.”

“He is small in stature but large in personality,” Michael Welling said. “Never once in his life has he said, ‘Why me?  Why did this happen to me?’ or ‘I can’t do that because I’m blind.’ Since he was little, we treated him like a regular kid who did regular things.”

Matthew concurred he’s never had a woe-is-me attitude because he has never known anything other than the condition he has.

“I don’t make it obvious and I don’t want it to be obvious,” he said. “I’m just another person. I don’t look any different. I look like a normal kid. I’ve been living with it for 17 years. I think overcoming everything that I have it impresses myself sometimes.”

On Apr. 24, Matthew was invited to appear on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio to talk about one of his favorite teams, the New York Rangers. At least that’s what he thought.

Instead, following some banter with the hosts, Matthew was awarded a $60,000 Garden of Dreams Inspire Scholarship for his college studies.

Matthew has been involved with Garden of Dreams for more than 10 years. In 2015, he performed in front of 6,000 people at Radio City Music Hall. He also sang a song he wrote called “Sunshine” at halftime of a New York Knicks game.

“They are phenomenal,” Matthew said of Garden of Dreams, a nonprofit charity connected with Madison Square Garden that is dedicated to bringing life-changing opportunities to young people in need. “That whole thing was a blur. It definitely was surreal and very heartwarming. I was flabbergasted.”

Matthew has started a blog called “Blind Guy on Sports,” and is hopeful one day of becoming ESPN’s first visually impaired sports anchor.

“With my vision impairment I doubt that play-by-play will be in my future, but I just want to be in the business, even if it’s not in front of the camera,” he said. “I’m not one to get nervous. I don’t see everyone in a crowd. I take that as a plus.”




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