Encinitas student receives Lighthouse Guild scholarship


Joel Gomez, who lives in Encinitas and graduated from Classical Academy High School, was one of 20 students who received an $8,000 scholarship from Lighthouse Guild.

Joel Gomez

The scholarships are for students who are legally blind and have demonstrated strong academic achievement. Gomez, 17, who has been legally blind since he was born, will attend Purdue University this fall.

Gomez said in an interview that it was “super exciting” to learn he had been selected for the scholarship

“I didn’t think I had a chance of winning it, so it was a great surprise,” he added.

His goal is to become an industrial engineer, which was inspired by his running.

“I run competitively,” Gomez said. “Running is all about being as efficient as possible, being able to run as fast as possible and get to the finish line as fast as possible. Industrial engineering is very similar to that. Basically, the process of designing as efficient of a process as possible of doing things.”

Gomez has also excelled in track, a sport he turned to after his vision made soccer more difficult. He eventually connected with Joaquim Cruz, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist and head coach of the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team. Cruz remains his coach and mentor. In 2019, Gomez was selected for the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field team. He competed in Switzerland, Peru and Dubai, winning two gold medals and one silver medal.

Gomez is competing in the U.S. Paralympic team trials in Minneapolis from June 17-20, which will determine who represents Team USA in Tokyo.

“We are particularly pleased to provide scholarships this year during a time when COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges for students who are visually impaired,” Calvin W. Roberts, president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild, said in a news release. “I commend these outstanding students for their perseverance and academic achievements and wish them success in their future careers.”

Gomez said he and his mother scoured the internet for scholarships available specifically to blind students and finally found Lighthouse Guild, a nonprofit that focuses on services and advocacy for the blind.

“We were looking for more significant ones and this was certainly one of those,” said Gomez, who is a member of the National Honor Society.

Other undergraduates who received Lighthouse Guild scholarships this year will be attending Villanova, New York University, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Harvard University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

“It’s going to help a lot when it comes to affording college,” Gomez said. “It’s going to help me achieve my dream of becoming an industrial engineer.”