School is out for summer!
That goes for our Transition Assistance program too – which just last week finished for the 2017-2018 school year. And what a year it has been. We had 14 high school students with visual impairments from all over Northeastern Pennsylvania join us for one full school day each month to help develop their skills in multiple areas.
The main point of this program is to give area students exposure in real-life settings that offer chances to explore self-advocacy and independent living skills, and to prepare for college and/or jobs after high school. An added bonus are the lifelong friendships and professional connections these students are making.
Our first group of sessions focused on skills that all young people should have to prepare them for their future, including training in communication and small talk, personality assessments, goal setting and team-building activities, as well as how (and how not) to present yourself in photographs and on social media. One major highlight of the program was having lunch at the Westmoreland Club, practicing the skills they learned with local high school and college students they had just met.
Though every student can benefit from this, students who are blind or visually impaired most certainly should be preparing for a life when they don’t live with their family. Particular issues may be transportation (using the bus system and Uber), how to cook and clean their own home, and what type of adaptive aids are available to make life easier, such as money identifiers and color indicators.
All of those topics – and more – were covered. And most importantly, the students were able to personally experience all of it – from using LCTA to go to the DMV to get their photo IDs to spending an entire day in a home to learn cooking and cleaning skills.
Finally, our students were able to concentrate on their own particular field of interest through resume development, mock interviews and job shadowing. By partnering with Career Link, local human resource professionals, area colleges and universities, as well as a few companies that gave our students an opportunity to job shadow for the day, we were able to provide our students with a well-rounded experience in prepping for their future.
The year culminated in an entire day spent at the Capital in Harrisburg, meeting with local senators and representatives to talk about our program and some of the future challenges for our students – and then a final graduation for our three graduating seniors, who are all preparing to go to local colleges in the fall.
A very special congratulations to Kamrein Havrilla, Raina Long and Kayla McDonough. There is no doubt that they have bright futures ahead of them – and we can’t wait to see all that they accomplish.
We could not do this alone. So much of the community partnered with us in making this program – and all the wonderful experiences for our students – a possibility.
Sara Gorgone Peperno is president and CEO of Northeast Sight Services. Officials for area nonprofits are encouraged to contribute op-eds to the Times Leader. Contact Executive Editor Joe Soprano at 570-991-6393 or [email protected] for more information.