Soon-to-be graduate defies visual disability

From left to right: Dorysped Mancebo, George Haj, the son of Dr. Fareed Haj for whom Mancebo's scholarship is named after, and her mother and father. Photo by Joshua Ceballos/PantherNOW

By: Anna Radinsky/Assistant News Director


For Dorysped Mancebo, her eyesight isn’t a factor when it comes to seeing her dreams become reality.

Mancebo was born with iris coloboma, a condition where a gap or hole forms in the colored part of the eye. She was born with poor vision, and doctors told her parents that at some point in her life she would lose her sight completely. This happened when she was 14.

“I woke up one day, prepared myself to go to school, got ready, went to school and suddenly I felt the strongest headache of my life. I lost consciousness and when I came back I could see nothing,” Mancebo said to Student Media in a phone interview. “I really don’t wish for that to happen to any single human being, not even the most horrendous and cruel person on earth.”

Due to her high academic achievements and her engagements with the community, Mancebo was awarded the Dr. Fareed Haj Scholarship Endowment to financially assist her while attending the University.

The Endowment supports scholarships for University undergraduate and graduate students who are blind or visually impaired.

Two months after moving to Florida from the Dominican Republic with basic English speaking skills, she started classes at Broward College.

Three years later, she got her Associate degree and transferred to the University.

After four years, she will graduate this May with a double major in International Relations and French, one minor in Portuguese, and three certificates in Linguistics, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Translation & Interpreting.

She is also planning to attend the University’s College of Law, a dream she had ever since she was eight-years-old, to be an immigration lawyer.

Mancebo said that she has been grateful for the Haj scholarship helping her get through school, but when she goes into law school she wants the scholarship to go to someone else.

“I think it’s time for another undergrad to achieve their dreams. I wouldn’t ask more from the Haj family,” said Mancebo. “They already did a lot. Now that I don’t have any scholarships, I want someone else.”

When she completely lost her sight in her teen years, Mancebo had no choice but to relearn how to navigate the world. Her parents were a large inspiration for her to prevent herself from feeling more different from her classmates.

“If you ask me if I stopped my life, No. Did I change schools to go to the school for the blind? No. I kept going to the same school, I kept doing my regular thing,” she said.

Mancebo said that her parents were determined to make sure that their only child was pushed to do better for herself throughout her life.

The Mancebo family would get comments from people worrying that by Dorysped going to regular schools with a disability would result in her getting bullied. Her parents only saw the challenges as opportunities to make her a stronger person.

“‘If life is tough, she’s tougher. If life is cruel, well, she’s harder than that.’ Because life puts you in situations where you have to grow. It’s either you grow or you die,” said Mancebo, remembering what her parents used to say.

Mancebo shared with Student Media that one of her challenges while growing up was dealing with bullying. Because she was a good student, her classmates would say that teachers gave her good grades out of pity, she was her teachers’ favorite and she was not as good as she thought she was. One incident even involved her losing a few friends over a project.

“I was newly blind and suddenly I lost my friends because I got an A on an assignment. There was a point that you ask, ‘Wait, what did I do? Why did this happen to me? Did I do something wrong?’”

She said it took her a long time to understand how to handle her haters and for her to realize that people do not deserve to have negative people around them.

“As humans, we deserve to be accepted. If in your heart you feel that you’re doing great and you’re doing good and you’re acting according to your beliefs and values, it’s better that those people are kept away. It saves you a lot of trouble and a lot of explanations,” said Mancebo.

While attending the University, Mancebo was met with a kinder crowd.

“When I got to FIU, I just felt at home and I felt the same thing when I entered the College of Law for the first time,” said Mancebo.

It was at FIU Law that Mancebo met an University alumna who was able to help Mancebo’s mom’s friend see her daughter in the Dominican Republic after being apart for 14 years.

“More than knowing laws, that lawyer had a heart. And I said it: I want to be that kind of lawyer. If that’s the kind of lawyer that FIU Law school makes, then I want to be that person,” Mancebo said. “I don’t want to be a lawyer that’s running ahead with a bank account number that is increasing and increasing. I want to be a heart within the law.”

Mancebo’s compassionate spirit lies in her dream of becoming an immigration lawyer to unite families and helping people achieve their own dreams.

While attending the University, Mancebo is also a tutor at Broward College for teaching English as a second language.

“I believe that the only way we can create a better world is through language… That’s why deep in my heart I feel that translators and interpreters are so important,” said Mancebo. “They are the bridges between cultures and hearts. Language is the bridge between hearts.”

Mancebo was also a Diversity Award finalist at the Division of Student Affairs’ annual Outstanding Student Life Awards in April 2018. The award recognizes students that are committed to being advocates for sharing the importance of valuing and appreciating uniqueness, similarities and differences within the community.

Mancebo said to Student Media that every day is worth celebrating.

“If you have a 25% chance of getting out of bed and falling, I have a 75% chance,” said Mancebo. “But each day that I wake up and get out of bed and have my normal life stuff and do my regular things and not getting hit and not falling and not doing something wrong, that’s a big achievement.”

When it comes to what she wants to do after graduating from law school, Mancebo only expects to smell the flowers along the path.

“What I want to do is use immigration law to help families. Maybe one day I will work for the government… or maybe I would like to serve in the foreign services…  Maybe I will have my own practice. Who knows? In anywhere where I am, I would like to serve.” said Mancebo.

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