Sophomore Daniel Grimes ’18 speaks three languages. He is a pianist. He is a runner. He is a swimmer. He is a bicyclist. He is an older brother. He is a singer. He also just so happens to have been born blind.
“I was visually impaired from the beginning. People think it must be very hard or odd, but it’s not. We can do what sighted people can do. Well, not everything, but we try,” Grimes said.
After moving from Ethiopia to Iowa City earlier this year, Grimes visited West High and sat in on classes during April and May. This past August, Grimes started his sophomore year as a full-time student.
“[Transitioning] has been a little hard, but the teachers and students are very nice,” he said “The students are a little nervous because they have never learned with blind students. At West, [I am the only blind student], but there are kids like me all over the world.
To help him transition into West, Grimes works with paraeducator Karin Bursch.
“Usually I am nervous before I meet any person. When I first heard about Ms. Bursh, I was a little nervous. But it got easier.” Grimes said.
Although Grimes claims he was nervous, Bursch did not seem to notice.
“Danny has always been really easy going when working with new people. We have become pretty honest with each other. It has been that way since day one,” she said.
Outside of school, Grimes is involved in a plethora of activities. However, his passion for music is the closest to his heart.
“I love music. I taught myself piano. I just listen to songs on Youtube, and push [the keys]. Sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I am doing [better].”
As far as his favorite songs, Grimes has a tough time deciding. Some of his favorite songs to sing are Christian worship songs and music from his idol, Stevie Wonder. Wonder, who was born blind as a result of Terry syndrome, has twenty-five GRAMMY awards.
“Stevie Wonder is an amazing piano player. I always listen to his music and want to be like him. I am always impressed by him and think ‘I can do it.’”
In the future, Grimes wants to pursue a career in journalism. He cites talk show hosts like Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks as his role models.
“I want to be a journalist and have my own talk show. I love [Banks and Winfrey] because they talk about race, abuse and real life. I would love to interview famous people and travel around the world and help people. I really want to visit Ireland, I imagine it as a really beautiful country.”
At the end of the day, Grimes wants to make sure people know that his disability does not define who he is as a person.
“I love making friends. I try to be friendly, and I can talk about any topic. Students want to help me, but they don’t know how to communicate with me. Just come to me and talk.”