Saint Francis junior Anjolaina Mogollon doesn’t let vision impairment slow her down

Anjolaina Mogollon (Photo by Hannah Fowerbaugh)

University of Saint Francis junior Anjolaina Mogollon lost much of her vision at age 11, an undeniably life-altering event. Yet after her new reality set in, she chose determination over self-pity.

“It was nothing I could have been prepared for, or planned for,” she said. “I guess I figured it out from there. It definitely changed the way I approached the world and education and everything.”

A psychology major, Mogollon recently landed a paid internship through the Gregory S. Fehribach Center in Indianapolis, and she will spend the summer working with Eskenazi Health Center in Indianapolis. She is the first Saint Francis student to land this prestigious internship for students with physical disabilities.

Mogollon’s vision impairment is the result of acute intercranial hypertension, and her optic nerves deteriorated in 2014. She has some limited vision. “I have no center vision, but I do all right,” she said.

“It was definitely difficult trying to figure out who I was as a blind person,” she said. “It felt like my identity was stripped away. I was very artistic and creative before I lost my vision. I struggled with discrimination and people not knowing or understanding who I was. I had to find my voice and advocate for myself, and that happened at the end of high school. I was able to walk into college knowing I was someone who had a place here.”

Mogollon graduated from Homestead High School and said she sought to stay local for higher education because of her reliance on family. Saint Francis offered the perfect home for her.

“When I picked Saint Francis, I liked how small and closeknit it was, and I thought I could end up knowing everyone at some point,” she said. “I thought I could have connections and not feel lost. I definitely found my place and a lot of roles where I fit in. I have a lot of people I consider my college family.”

Mogollon serves as president of the Psychology Club and works in the St. Benedict the Moor Justice Center, helping focus on research, creating presentations and running social media. “I have a passion for helping people in general, so I want to make a long-lasting impact and a positive impact in the world,” she said. “I plan to go to grad school and eventually enter the clinical side of psychology.”

Coordinator of Student Accessibility Services Geneva J. Burgess praises and admires Mogollon’s ability to keep moving forward.

“Anjolaina arrived at Saint Francis with positivity and confidence,” Burgess said. “As a disability coordinator, I have had the privilege of working with numerous students facing vision impairments, but Anjolaina’s proactive approach and self-advocacy set her apart as an exceptional leader on campus. She’s truly an inspiration for her peers and to all those who are fortunate to cross her path.”

Director of the St. Benedict the Moor Justice Center Saul D. Llacsa has also been impressed by Mogollon.

“Strength isn’t measured in physical prowess alone, but in the depth of character and the ability to inspire others,” Llacsa said. “Anjolaina’s different capacities are examples of leading with empathy and determination as a testament to the power of resilience and the richness of diversity in leadership.”

Mogollon encourages other students with disabilities to stay strong, be their true selves and cultivate genuine friends.

“My advice would be to be unapologetically you,” Mogollon said. “Don’t let someone stop you from doing what you want to do. Don’t let your disability define who you are. Learn to be your own person outside of your disability, and find people who want to be there for you as a person and not just help you with your disability.”

In her internship, which starts June 10, Mogollon will be part of the social work team, helping patients with extended care at the facility and creating plans to connect patients with resources, housing and food. She will live on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis. Learn more about the Gregory S. Fehribach Center.

Mogollon, who has a strong interest in social work, applied for the internship at the urging of Burgess. “It was a great opportunity and I jumped on it,” she said. “I was looking for something to do over the summer.”

Her visual impairment has not slowed her down. “It’s something that made me who I am today,” she said. “I’m not mad that it happened.”