When Grej Pesjaka was eight-years old, he suddenly lost his vision in both of his eyes. He was a completely healthy child who liked playing soccer when he lost his eyesight completely in only one day. Doctors in Albania did not know what was wrong with Grej so they recommended that his parents send him to the USA for treatment.
In September 2001, his parents put him on a plane to the USA by himself. Grej did not speak a word of English at the time. When he reached Los Angeles, Chandice Covington, a nurse with ties to Albania who had promised to help Grej, met him at the airport. Grej was rushed to UCLA Medical Center and then to an ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills where he was diagnosed with a retinal disease. An immediate surgery was performed and Grej regained some sight in one eye.
Treatment for Grej’s eye was expected to take years, so his parents and brother moved to the USA. Grej was enrolled in a public school but the school was very large and Grej felt lost between the cracks. Covington then offered to help Grej and his family again by finding him a smaller, private school. Grej enrolled at the Pilgrim School; this small school has a total enrollment of only 400 students. The school also focuses on and embraces cultural diversity and social responsibility.
Unfortunately, the Pilgrim School is very expensive and Grej’s family could not afford to pay his tuition. When the head of the school, Mark Brooks, heard about Grej’s journey, he asked friends to help pay for Grej’s education. Eighteen anonymous donors made contributions that covered Grej’s entire high school tuition.
Now, ten years after suddenly becoming blind and boarding a flight by himself to a country where he did not speak the language, Grej has graduated from high school. He still does not have vision in one of his eyes and only has 50 percent vision in the other, but this does not damper his determination. He has been admitted to UC Riverside and plans on becoming a lawyer. A fighter since his early childhood, Grej said he likes to argue and was very successful in the mock trials at his high school.
Via The LA Times