Ramona Coker, First Vice President
Hi, my name is Ramona Coker, but I go by Mona to my friends. I come from very humble beginnings, raised in Louisiana in the foster care system. I had my first retinal reattachment surgery when I was 9 years old from blunt force trauma. Things were fine until I contracted a bacterial form of pink eye, where the hospital prescribed antibiotics and steroids to treat the infection. The medication made the scar tissue grow and re-detached my retinas. By this time I was a mother of 1 and went through a total of 14 surgeries to try to correct my eyesight, included in those procedures were 5 retinal repairs, but they just would not take. I finally got tired of the procedures and decided to get on with my life, which included a lot of denial that I was losing my vision. I worked until I could no longer see the paperwork required of me. I finally was approved for disability and settled into the great adventure of being a mother.
It was really scary being a single mother, worried that any moment someone was going to show up and say I was not a good mother due to my degenerating sight, but it never happened. We moved to Reno in 2008 and I continued business as usual until one day I took a really hard fall down the stairs of my apartment building. I decided it was time for me to find some help. Every place I called that had blind in their name was not able to help me until I found a website talking about the NFB, so I called the local number listed and reached Chun Alan Chao, who invited me to my first NFB meeting.
My godmother took me to the meeting and I quietly sat and listened. I could hear people talking and something else, they were using technology! I turned to my godmother and said "I thought you said that this was a blind group?" She told me that it really was a blind group, so I wanted to know more.
Before losing my vision, I was very much into tech and graphic design. I was so thrilled to find out that I could use it again after a fashion. I was invited to an iOS class where they lent me an iPad and I could not learn fast enough. While I was learning about assistive technology, I was also learning about the NFB, which I found amazing an made me want to become a strong advocate for myself and my new blind brothers and sisters. I was offered the opportunity to participate in the Partners in Leadership and Policy Making course and I happily accepted. I also decided too go back to school. School was amazing, but then along came COVID, and away went all my supports, with no recourse. I decided to withdraw so as to not ruin the 4.0 GPA I worked so hard for and focused more on the job I had with the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living. We ran a food security and rental assistance program for those with disabilities during COVID. It was an awesome program where I was able to develop relationships with our consumers as well as learning more about Independent Living.
In the fall of 2022, it became apparent that my predecessor was about to become Affiliate president, and was looking at me to take his place as Chapter president. I of course did not feel I was ready to serve in this capacity, but he was. So far things are going well, I am learning more and more about the NFB all the time as well as sharing what I am learning with our chapter. The new year also brought with it a new job as Membership Director. That has had its challenges with the membership portal being a new feature, but as with all challenges, it will be faced and conquered. I look forward to all the amazing things we will do together as a federation!!