Finishing Strong: 2014 Graduate Kayla Weaver

Like any other day at Armstrong, Kayla Weaver will be led by her faithful guide dog Keith at the Fall Commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 13. However, for this special occasion, they will both be dressed in traditional caps and gowns to celebrate Kayla’s achievement of earning a B.S. in Computer Science.

Kayla, who transferred to Armstrong from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in the summer of 2012, is legally blind. Keith, a well-trained yellow Labrador Retriever, has served as Kayla’s eyes for the past five months.

“When I first came to Armstrong, I had a difficult time adjusting,” she says. “There were times that I didn’t know where I was.”

Before she had her faithful guide dog by her side, Kayla would call on her husband Blair, a senior in Armstrong’s biochemistry program, for help.

“I would call Blair, and he would have to come and get me,” she explains.

In July, Kayla gained back a piece of her independence when she received Keith. After a three-week training period at Guiding Eyes for the Blind Guide Dog School, the pair made their way to Armstrong’s campus in Savannah.

It was a unique experience for both Kayla and Keith. Keith is Kayla’s first guide dog , and Kayla is the first person Keith has ever guided. Together, they learned to navigate the university’s 250-acre campus.

“We have developed a really strong bond, and he really knows my routes and patterns,” she says.

Kayla and Keith have grown together at Armstrong. For Keith, Armstrong has been a match made in dog heaven. Guide dogs excel in educational environments because they learn the schedules and the routes. For Kayla, Armstrong has served as the perfect launching pad to make a difference in the world.

After graduation, Kayla plans to use her degree to design and develop technology applications that will aid those who also have a visual impairment.

“I am ready to move one step closer to my goal,” she says, “and I’m happy my guide dog will be taking those steps with me.”