“At the start of my childhood, I remember being happy, fearless, and free. But as I reluctantly grew up in a world designed for people to live with sight, I developed a deep fear characterized by tough questions with no answers.” Amber Sherrard has a knack for summing up the existential fear that can come with a major change in vision; and with Retinitis Pigmentosa setting in early in her life, Amber needed to develop a strong sense of who she was, outside of the level of her eyesight.
Before Amber began hitting the gym on a regular basis, finding dignity and self-worth through her ever changing situation at times felt impossible “I found bits and pieces of solitude in poetry, music, and theater,” she says, “but each time I was alone, the thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘why me’ returned. Deep in my innermost being, I knew I was called to a higher purpose, but when the negative thoughts and intense fear were upon me, it seemed like ‘someday’ would never come.”
Today, Amber is a powerlifter, a yoga instructor, and an incredibly motivating person to be around. Amber might seem like she’s got it all figured out to other blind people who find just stepping foot in a gym a little intimidating – but she started from square one, like everyone else. Amber also knows that health and wellness is about more than pumping iron, which is why in her new role at LightHouse, she is hosting regular workshops on healthy eating, yoga and inner-body exercises to improve the health of the “whole you.”
Amber remembers her ah-ha moment well: Fresh out of high school and on the first day of her blindness training program, her travel instructor, Arlene, told her about the gym across the street – a place called Curves. Arlene showed her how to get there, showed her the ropes and in doing so, eliminated the anxiety Amber might have felt getting to know a brand new gym.
The result was what Amber calls a “frenzy of independence.” Within a few short weeks, she was hooked, suddenly taking joy in a body that she once thought of as ordinary, now amazing. “I can remember people walking up to me and asking if I was an athlete or what sport I played,” she recalls, “those were my favorite compliments. I felt unstoppable. I felt as if my mind and body were so sharp and strong, that I could handle anything in life with grace, dignity, and ease.”
After graduating her blindness training program, Amber had a new mission: helping people find complete freedom, independence, and self-worth through health and fitness, just as she had done.
Amber received her bachelor’s degree In Nutrition and Dietetics from Louisiana Tech University. There, she enjoyed a vibrant new social life and joined the Powerlifting team, competing in two nationals and one world competition, “I was the only blind person on my team and at nationals, but that meant nothing to me,” she says, “I was out to author and create a life that I loved. My entire being radiated with freedom, joy, and happiness and people noticed. For a young, single, black woman, who was legally blind, my life was extraordinary.”
Going on to become a Registered Nutrition and Dietetic Technician (NDTR) and a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200) Amber taught yoga full-time through grad school, eventually earning a masters degree in Health and Human Performance with a concentration in Health Promotion from Northwestern State University. Finally earning a credential as a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), Amber wanted to turn her education into a new opportunity to mobilize a community in a bigger way than she had before.
We are pleased to welcome Amber to the team at LightHouse, and hope that you’ll sign up for one of her upcoming classes. Check the LightHouse calendar for all Health and Wellness events!
Interested in learning more? Contact Amber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-694-7353.