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Sam Picciano leaning against a railing with a pond in the background.NWABA welcomed its first full-time Idaho Program Manager, Sam Picciano, as the organization expands programming across the Gem State. A favorite part of Sam’s job is finding creative ways to engage the community in the life-changing work she is doing with NWABA. “Bearing witness to athletes overcoming their first time participating in an individual or team sport is incredibly rewarding and the type of powerful work that I both wish to be involved with, as well as create space for longevity of programming.” Sam continues, “I am most excited to bring blindness sensitivity training and blindness awareness as a whole to Idaho. With blindness being the lowest incidence disability, there are few organizations specifically creating, maintaining, and scaling quality programming catered to the blindness population. Explicitly targeting sports and physical activity is poignant, as our programs fracture the stereotype of blind individuals leading sedentary lifestyles. However, our programming is not solely focused on being active; our programs champion bold and independent strides, foster community, and empower all who engage, to reach higher. I truly regard and embody NWABA’s mission of providing life-changing opportunities and look forward to continuing to develop the quality of NWABA’s programming and to bolster community commitment as I carry my diverse skillset into Idaho.”

When asked how she found her way to adaptive education, she told the story of growing up in an inclusive martial arts studio or “dojo”. “My grandmaster was paralyzed and taught from a wheelchair using only verbal descriptions to run multiple studios, which displayed incredible perseverance. Growing up around all his various service providers, inspired me to go into service provision; after my undergraduate, I stumbled upon Visual Disabilities Education on a career website and had no idea what the coursework entailed. I was intrigued, because I craved a profession that required base scientific knowledge, but also allowed room for creativity and after a university visit, I decided that the field of vision was the niche for me. As far as sports adaptions and the vision world colliding, I had life-altering experiences at camps that specifically catered to adapted sports for individuals with visual impairments and became hooked!”

Sam is a true educator and student as well. Much of her master’s degree was earned while blindfolded. She says, “The experience was incredibly necessary and has aided in my understanding of what it is and how I am teaching.” In addition, Sam holds certifications as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist via the Academy of Certification of Vision and Education Professionals (COMS), Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (CTVI) and has an M.S. In Visual Disabilities Education from Florida State University.

Originally from Coconut Creek, Florida, she made her way to NWABA after a three-year stint in New Orleans. Sam is happily settling into the Boise lifestyle with her wife of five years, Teagan Sullivan, and their three fur babies; Neville, the French Bulldog; Murphy the dog, who thinks he’s a cat; and their actual cat, Ginsburg.

In her spare time, Sam is a Miami Heat fan and enjoys watching their basketball games, as well as going to indie and pop/punk rock shows and reading poetry. While she prefers to watch television mini-series and documentaries, her favorite movie is “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. Sam is also a big foodie and has an adventurous palate, so feel free to pass along any restaurant recommendations in the Boise metro area.