“I know now that I am capable and can succeed if the right support and understanding are given to me. I can help open doors for other people with disabilities and I can be a positive example to them. Culinary school has been an amazing journey for me, and I have made life-long friendships."
Lauren Bush is an example of someone who has directly benefited from Envision programs and services and has been able to thrive. She is a graduate of Butler Community College with a degree in Applied Science under the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management School and is also a Envision Arts participant with an emphasis in mixed media art. Lauren has been involved in Envision programs and services since she was 14 years old.
At age 13, Lauren was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare eye disease that affects the retina of the eye, where the cells within slowly break down over time, causing vision loss. The cause of Lauren’s vision impairment is Bardel-Biedl Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which can manifest many highly variable symptoms, such as vision loss like Retinitis Pigmentosa.
Lauren was referred by her eye doctor to Envision’s Vision Rehabilitation Center at age 14. She learned different tools for how to navigate, such as learning to use a white cane, through Envision’s Orientation and Mobility Specialist and was taught daily living skills through Envision’s Occupational Therapy team.
She has been involved in Envision programs such as Heather’s Camp, from ages 14 to 21, as well as Level Up, adult support groups, annual music workshops, Delta Gamma Anchor Splash (an annual fundraiser benefitting Envision) and Envision annual golf tournaments. Lauren still attends all Envision Arts workshops, every Tuesday and Thursday at Envision headquarters.
“Being a part of Envision and growing up in the programs has been great and I wish more people knew about Envision and what they do, because it’s not just the programs that make the change, it’s the community of people that make the most impact. You get to meet other people just like you and it helped me so much to know someone could relate to my struggles with vision loss.” -Lauren Bush.
Before being introduced to the culinary arts field, Lauren was interested in early childhood education. In 2008, she went to the Kansas State School for the Blind and received a certificate of completion. She then decided to attend Butler Community College to achieve a degree in early childhood education. In early 2011, Lauren’s path was forever altered after receiving the news that her mom had passed away.
“After my mom passed, I didn’t know what to do. I left Butler Community College and was very depressed. Slowly, while attending the Envision Arts Program, making art helped me out of that depression and helped me be able to continue my path,” said Bush.
In 2015 through 2016, Lauren attended the Nebraska Center for the Blind and was looking at job placement options when she became interested in going back to Butler Community College to finish her degree. “The culinary school looked intriguing to me because I knew I had always been creative, and wanted to tie that into a job that I would enjoy,” said Bush. “When I first applied to the culinary institute, I was told that it wouldn’t be possible for someone with my disability to succeed, and I wasn’t accepted into the program. I applied again two years later in 2020, meeting with chef Luis Pena and Butler Disability Services and Vocational Rehab. That's when my journey through culinary school began.”
The two-year culinary program taught Lauren cooking skills and safety techniques and hands-on guided learning techniques in the kitchen that allowed her to succeed. “The teachers got me talking kitchen scales so I could measure ingredients, and helped navigate me to where different kitchen items and ingredients were located, but everything else was taught to me the same way that sighted people learn to cook,” said Bush.
Lauren graduated in May of 2023 with an associate degree in applied sciences through the Butler Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management School. She knows how to cook Asian, American, Northern and Southern Europe cuisines, and her favorite food to cook is Italian food and pastries.
“I know now that I am capable and can succeed if the right support and understanding are given to me. I can help open doors for other people with disabilities and I can be a positive example to them. There were times in my schooling when I succeeded and when I failed, but a part of the process for me was being able to recognize that even when I failed, I knew I would succeed again, and I would be able to do anything I set my mind to doing,” said Bush.
“Culinary school has been an amazing journey for me, and I have made life-long friendships. I don’t know where I would be without the support of Envision, my culinary teachers Luis and Alicia Pena, and the support of my family.”
Lauren is pursuing her career in culinary arts and is currently looking for job opportunities in the field.
To support our crucial programs and services, please visit envisionus.com/donate.