BRONX, N.Y. - Fourteen-year-old Iliana Mejia has been singing for as long as she can remember.
She says it's a passion that provides a needed escape.
"Music is my therapy," Mejia said. "Without music I would be pretty lost."
Mejia was born blind. For the last nine years, she has attended the New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx.
The school - which is free of charge - educates nearly 300 students, ages 3 to 21, many of them blind or visually impaired.
On Thursday, the school will hold its semi-annual concert, where students will get up before a crowd to showcase their talents and erase misconceptions.
"I think often times people think that if you're visually impaired you're not able to do these kinds of things." said Bernadette Kappen, the school's executive director. "And we want to show to everyone that the students are just like any other student; they just don't see as well."
The students practice individually every week for three months and then together as a group over three rehearsals. It's a collaboration in more ways than one. Often, students help one another get to and from the stage.
"For me as a teacher, it's a big joy to see them, their shiny voices, their beautiful ability to learn something," said Naum Shulman, the school's music director. "And this has helped them as well and helped me as a teacher to see the big progress that we have on here together."
Iliana Mejia is one of those students who have made big progress over the years. But she admits to still getting stage fright.
"It's nerve-wracking," Mejia said. "Absolutely nerve-wracking. But it's a great experience."