When Ryan Puc races along the grueling terrain at a varsity cross country meet, as part of  the relay team at varsity track meets or playing on the varsity basketball team, all he can see of the world around him is a blur of color and shapes and the markings on the asphalt or gymnasium floor.ryan2Ryan Pruc, 18, a senior at St. Joseph Academy, Kenosha, has not let poor vision keep him from excelling. In addition to good grades, Ryan excelled in sports, including cross country, track and basketball, and was a member of the student council and campus ministry. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)

Ryan, 18, has macular dystrophy, a condition that allows him to see only peripherally. The condition causes the central portion of the retina, known as the macular, to deteriorate progressively, resulting in significant loss of fine focal ability. Diagnosed as an infant, his vision continues to diminish, until at some unknown time, it should stabilize. He is legally, but not totally, blind. Ryan shares this incurable diagnosis with his mother, Carmen, and sister Jasmine, 21.

His lack of sight is not an issue when Ryan, one of the top athletes at St. Joseph Academy in Kenosha, is racing, nor is it an issue as an award-winning saxophonist.

Working alongside classmates on the computer or reading textbooks can be daunting, but one does not hear the high school senior complain.

“I manage my schoolwork like every other student in my school; it just takes me a little longer to do things when I have to use a smaller font, otherwise I like to think of myself as just another student,” he said.

Just another student – the kind of whom school administrator Ed Kovochich wishes he had more. Kovochich called Ryan one of the nicest kids he’s met in his 41 years of education.

“He is on top of my list because he is just a well rounded young man, respectful of others and a tremendous athlete,” he explained. “He has won medals in cross country and the track relay team, been involved in campus ministry, served on the student council, is a student ambassador and a wonderful saxophonist.”

Kovochich called Ryan – who has earned a 3.4 grade point average – hardworking and diligent. 

“Whenever we need a volunteer for development night, Ryan is always first in line; he gives tours of the school and tutors the younger kids on the saxophone. You can’t get any better than that,” said Kovochich. “He has served as an altar server and usher at his parish, St. Anastasia in Waukegan, and has a heart for Jesus – he’s very Christ-centered.”

Ryan initially struggled with grades, as he couldn’t read the textbooks or work on the computer like other students. However, this year St. Joseph Academy provided Ryan with large print books and papers and a computer with a larger font.

“I used to feel that I had to make so much more of an effort to keep up with the other students,” he said. “This year, they have really helped me by increasing the font on pretty much everything they give me, which is very helpful. It feels like I’m finally on a level playing ground as the other students.”DSCF0933Ryan Puc poses with Megan Irving in this submitted photo. (Submitted photo courtesy St. Joseph Academy)

While struggling to see faces, words and scenery is frustrating for Ryan, he believes his condition made his faith much stronger because he has learned to rely on God for everything.

“I always thank God for everything he has given me and I know things could be a lot worse,” he explained. “Even though my vision is poor, it makes me a stronger person in general and I thank God for that. There is no reason to blame God for my bad vision; no one is perfect and it is one of the things that makes me, me.”

While she admires Ryan’s accomplishments, his mother, Carmen, is most impressed with the depth of his faith and how he prays every day.

“That’s how he believes he can overcome all obstacles,” she said. “His faith is amazing and he is just a strong Catholic person and has faith in all that he does.”

Enrolled at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota for the fall semester, Ryan plans to major in biology as a prerequisite to medical school.

“I worry about this choice, but Ryan believes he can do it and overcome his visual problems with the development of new technology,” said Carmen. “He is such a good boy and never puts his vision in front of anything he wants to do. So, I believe that he will do anything he puts his mind to doing.”

Along with his dedication and faith, Ryan has a personality that attracts others, according to Carmen.

“He gets along with everyone,” she said. “And I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like him.”

While life with limited vision is difficult, Ryan said it is like any other tough situation – pushing through it is the key to success.

“If I could get through it with vision impairment that makes everyday life a little harder, then others can make it through high school the same way, by pushing through it,” he said. “At the end of your senior year, you will realize that overcoming all these struggles and never giving up has made you a better person.”

School guidance counselor Angela Sereno is impressed with the high standards Ryan sets and accomplishes, despite his visual problems.

“He is a hard-working young man with high goals that I know he will achieve,” she said. “He has never let any outside influences deter him from doing his best. I congratulate him on his many years of success.”

Whether or not Ryan realizes his goals of becoming a medical doctor, he will not be easily dissuaded, and offers advice to others who might be struggling.

“I would like to tell others to never give up on the things you have a passion for,” he said. “That’s how I have been successful in the things I have been in. I’ve never given up or quit and I will not; that is what I always keep in my head. So don’t give up, no matter what.”