“I was so scared, super scared,” he recalls. “I bottomed out. I didn’t know how I was going to get back together.”
For about four years, he didn’t tell anyone at the office, until his uncharacteristic mistakes clued in his supervisor. Though Royal Caribbean tried to accommodate him, he decided to take a buyout four years ago. Then he began attending the Lighthouse for the Blind, where he learned Braille.
That’s when he decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of attending college. With the help of MDC Kendall Campus ACCESS (A Comprehensive Center for Exceptional Student Services), he enrolled in a full load of courses, using adaptive equipment, including apps on his iPhone, to help him attend class and study.
At about the same time, photo professor Chirinos approached ACCESS director Elizabeth Smith to suggest a pilot program in photography that would pair blind and visually impaired students with those who can see. Chirinos developed the idea after his father lost his eyesight, prompting him to question how a photographer might approach his art without that essential sense.
“We were looking for some brave soul who would be willing to try this experiment,” Chirinos says.
Smith recommended Young without hesitation. Young, on the other hand, was worried.
“It was fear,” he says. “I was afraid they were going to find out I was doing real well in all these classes, but that I would fall on my face with this other one.”
He didn’t. Chirinos made sure Young had a camera that didn’t need to be focused or adjusted for light. Then he teamed Young with students who would help him mix chemicals and expose the prints properly in an old-fashioned darkroom.
Young, in turn, photographed his heart out. He took the Olympus everywhere he went. He won over skeptics, attracted fans.
In May he graduates with an associate degree in computer engineering. His grade point average? An impressive 3.93 — only one B blemishing his long list of A’s. He will attend FIU to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but plans to continue pursuing his newfound hobby.
Chirinos says Young’s classmates have gained “a deeper appreciation of sight because of Milton. They’ve learned a lot about photography simply by talking to an instinctively talented photographer who cannot see.”
Young says he, too, has discovered something new: “I learned that you can embrace things you were originally afraid of.”