One of a Kind

MalikaGray_NECO
Pictured Above: Malaika G., Opticianry '2014

When Malaika G. was in elementary school, she noticed an underrepresentation of African-Americans in the books shelved in her school’s library. That she could not identify with the characters and personages in the library’s collection made Malaika feel isolated and largely invisible. She complained about this inequity to her father, who encouraged Malaika to think about what she could do to change the situation instead of complaining about it. “My father was a very positive person and taught me to be the same,” Malaika recalls. She took her father’s advice and used the circumstance as an opportunity for change; she recruited several classmates and teachers and together, they held several bake sales to raise money for new books. Not only did they raise the funds, but Malaika became part of a group that had a voice in what books the library purchased. To this day, those books are still shelved at her elementary school in Springfield, Massachusetts where other young African American children can find themselves represented in those pages.

Malaika didn’t lose this entrepreneurial spirit in high school, but cultivated it and affected change for the better. She attended Springfield Central High School where she fostered her love of fashion and making a difference in her community by starting a fashion club and in four years, was able to leave a legacy behind for other students. The culmination of her work was a fashion show she produced in her senior year. Not only did Malaika organize all aspects of the show, including featuring some of her own designs, but she partnered with local retailers who donated clothes for the show, which was a huge success and raised money for the club which still continues to thrive at Springfield Central High School.

When Malaika learned about the Opticianry program at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT), she found an opportunity to leverage her interests into a career where there was real job opportunity. Currently a second year student in the Opticianry program, Malaika is learning the technical skills of working with spectacles and lenses, knowledge that she needs and can parlay into eye wear design. As a member of the Franklin Honor Society, President of the student chapter of the Opticians Association of Massachusetts (OAM), and a member of the Opticians Association of America (OAA), Malaika is very engaged in the community. Last semester, Malaika wrote an award winning essay and was recognized by the OAA with a scholarship to attend their annual conference in Orlando, Florida. At the conference, Malaika had the opportunity to engage with professionals in the field and learn about leadership opportunities.Currently a second year student enrolled in the Associate of Science degree in the Eye Health Technology Department, she has already secured a job in the field while finishing her degree.  

In her award-winning essay, Malaika memorialized her father (whom she recently lost at the age of 20) and the role he played in shaping her pursuit of education and civic responsibility. Malaika writes touchingly of her father’s memory, “I feel that if it wasn’t for my father being a leader and instilling the values of giving and helping others in my life, I wouldn’t have the opportunity, ambition, or perseverance to become an Optician…when I’m no longer here, I want to leave a noteworthy legacy through the people I’ve helped and inspired.”

Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology is the only college in Massachusetts to offer an Associate of Science degree in Opticianry and the only program to be supported by the Opticians Association of Massachusetts. Students in this program learn to design, fit, and dispense glasses and contact lenses. Trained on ophthalmic devices and instrumentation, graduates from the Opticianry program are prepared for MA licensing and both national and local certification exams. In September 2010, BFIT started a nine month certificate program in Ophthalmic Medical Assisting and prepares students for careers as Ophthalmic Assistants in Ophthalmology practices.

BFIT students have participated in many cooperative learning projects in partnership with students at the New England College of Optometry (NECO), the most notable project being the “Ben’s Vision for Kid’s Vision” program in which BFIT Opticianry students manufactured and dispensed over 350 pairs of glasses for vision needy school children in the city of Boston and surrounding areas.

Learn more about our programs in Eye Health Technology here.