The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

April 18, 2014

Life through her eyes | Teen's book a good read for young, old

JOHNSTOWN — Brielle Corrente of New Germany has written a children’s book, based on her own experiences, about overcoming adversity. It might be aimed a young audience, but her story is one from which most adults could learn a thing or two.

Corrente, an 18-year-old senior at Forest Hills High School, has already accomplished so much in her young life.

-- She has battled a debilitating disease that robbed her of much of her vision.

-- She penned “Finding the Color in a Black and White World – Overcoming Adversity,” which should be out by the end of next month, and will donate all of the proceeds from it to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

-- She recently was crowned Miss Teen Pennsylvania International 2014 and will compete this summer in the national pageant in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Her life has been unbelievable, but she worked through it to get back on track,” said her mother, Bettina Corrente. “You can overcome adversity and be happy and productive.”

The younger Corrente certainly has done that. She was diagnosed with optic neuritis at age 14. Overnight she went from having 20/20 vision to being unable to read a clock on the wall, according to her mother.

As the disease progressed, school became more and more difficult for Corrente. Her perception of colors had changed. She couldn’t read the board in class or the paper to take notes. It was nearly impossible to follow along on a computer screen.

It also affected one of her true loves – being a ballet dancer – as it threw off her balance.

“Doctors told me I couldn’t dance, but this is my 14th year,” Corrente told reporter Ruth Rice with a sense of pride. “A lot of my vision returned when I concentrated on other things.”

Corrente continued to battle the illness and undergo medical procedures to help restore her vision. While she still cannot see as she did before the diagnosis, her vision has improved greatly. She’s able to wear contact lenses and do the things she loves, which includes sharing her inspiring story via her book.

“There’s a ballerina princess, and an evil witch casts a spell which takes all the color out of her world,” Corrente said. “The princess feels like she’s not special anymore and wants to give up, but her best friend helps her regain the color by finding the true color and magic in memories and smells.

“That’s what I want to do. I’ll never see colors right and I don’t have a lot of vision, but this illness gave me something better.”

What a wonderfully refreshing outlook. The fact that it comes from someone so young is even more impressive. We applaud her and wish her the best in the future. We urge readers not only to purchase her book but to buy into her way of looking at life.

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