Sam Tocco doesn’t want to get his hopes up, but his ophthalmologist had some good news last time he went for a checkup. There is a new procedure expected to be available in a year or so that might restore at least a portion of the vision Tocco completely lost at 17.
“I won’t let anything stop me from going after the things I want in life,” said Tocco, a business major at Macomb, “but this possibility is now in the back of my mind.”
Tocco was born with a rare, congenital eye defect. During most of his childhood, he could see fairly normally out of one eye, and functionally out of the other. That changed when he was 12 and began hemorrhaging from both eyes.
“I missed the first three months of eighth grade because I could do nothing but lay on the couch so the blood would drain out of the way of my vision,” related Tocco, who endured 11 eye operations between the ages of 14 and 19. “There is no way to make another person understand what those years were like.”
Overcoming his loss of vision
Despite the challenges he faced, Tocco describes his childhood and teens as “very precious to me.” And he is approaching his future with the same positive attitude. His goals are to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Walsh (where he also attends classes), become fluent in Spanish, “find the right girl” and travel the world.
“Unfortunately, way too much of my life has been spent in survival mode,” acknowledged Tocco, 43 and a graduate of Roseville High School. “Now that I am working again, I can afford to get back into many more things.”
Tocco is on a cooperative education (co-op) assignment with DTE Energy’s Regional Relations division. The division’s director, Michael Chriss (a Macomb alumnus), recommended Tocco for the position after having him as a student in the Corporate Responsibility course Chriss teaches at Macomb. Inspired by his instructor’s confidence in him, Tocco pursued the co-op position determinedly and enlisted Macomb’s Career Services to help.
Two “wonderful people” at Macomb
“Marion (Benoit) was crucial in helping me revise my resume and put together a cover letter when time was of the essence,” offered Tocco. “I couldn’t have done it without her, for which I will always be grateful. She and Mike are some of the many wonderful and intelligent people I have met (at Macomb).”
Tocco’s co-op assignment began in July and has been extended through the end of the year. There might even be a chance it will be extended far longer than that.
“Mike is trying to find me a permanent spot with the company,” said Tocco, who has spent the majority of his co-op assignment working with DTE’s energy and environmental justice group. “He also arranged for me to speak to (DTE’s) CEO Jerry Norcia. I was floored when my phone rang and it was him.”