Hailey Skoglund walks with confidence these days through the Florida Polytechnic University campus. That wasn’t the case just a few months ago, but the business analytics major received the gift of freedom with her new best friend, Marli.
“I was always very cautious before and would walk very slowly because I was nervous of where I was going,” she said. “Marli has liberated me by helping me navigate freely and efficiently.”
Skoglund, a junior from Spring Hill, Florida, received Marli in March from New York-based nonprofit Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The yellow mini Labrador retriever has since transformed Skoglund’s ability to make her way through life, including her college life.
Marli guides her to specific classrooms from anywhere in the Innovation, Science, and Technology (IST) building by using only a command word. In class, the dog scoots under her chair and patiently awaits her next duty.
“She even learned how to find the Starbucks in here – I always get her a puppuccino.”
September is National Service Dog Month and Marli is one of two service dogs that walk throughout the Florida Poly campus every day guiding their owners, becoming part of the University community.
“The professors here are amazing and so accommodating,” Skoglund said. “I feel Marli and I fit right into the community here.”
Skoglund was born with eye nystagmus and optical nerve atrophy. These progressive eye diseases caused steady vision loss and eventually led to her blindness. However, she has not allowed her condition to limit her drive and aspirations.
Skoglund, 18, received an associate of arts degree from Pasco-Hernando State College in December 2018 and was her class valedictorian. Five months later, she was salutatorian at her graduation from Nature Coast Technical High School in Spring Hill, Florida.
She transferred to Florida Poly this semester and hopes to pursue a law degree at Harvard Law School after graduation.
“There’s a quote I love by Helen Keller, ‘The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision,’” Skoglund said.
“I may have lost my sight, but I haven’t lost the vision for my future and the success I aim to reach by graduating from Florida Poly and going off to law school.”
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