Melissa DeRoche

Gramercy, LA

Winner of Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA) for Students who are Blind/Visually Impaired

Melissa DeRoche

Melissa was born with congenital cataracts and underdeveloped eyes. In junior high she suddenly lost total vision after experiencing retinal detachment and struggled to adjust, resisting any special services designated for individuals who were visually impaired or blind. She relied on her mother to read and record her school materials, before being introduced to Learning Ally audiobooks in 9th grade. Melissa quickly gained independence and confidence, and felt capable of managing the demands and rigor of schoolwork. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of New Orleans, earning a B.A. in psychology and a M.Ed. in human services counseling.

Upon entering the workforce Melissa experienced prejudice and discrimination, encountering professionals who disregarded her achievements and insinuated that she was incapable of fulfilling the responsibilities of a counselor due to her blindness. Undaunted, Melissa joined the AmeriCorps program, providing counseling services within a community-based mental health agency and became a Licensed Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist. She later earned her Ph.D. in counselor education in 2016 and is now working at Troy University in Alabama as an Assistant Professor of Counseling. Melissa cites Learning Ally services as being “crucial” to her personal, educational, and professional successes. She says “Learning Ally enables anyone with print disabilities to effectively compete in academia and the professional world. I cannot think of a more effective life resource.”

Today, Melissa proudly serves as a mentor for Learning Ally’s College Success Program, helping students who are blind navigate their collegiate experience.