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HCPS students with visual impairments gain work experience and employability skills through the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind Summer Transition Program.

Program prepares students with visual impairments for life after school

July 17, 2015

Two Chamberlain High School students, Tony Ferrer and Lauryn Thomas, are spending their summer organizing and cataloging Braille books at the Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired (FIMC-VI).  Hillsborough County Public Schools visually impaired students from across the county, ages 14 through 22, are participating in the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind Summer Transition Program, which prepares them for life after school by focusing on independent living and employment skills. 

Tony is 21, his favorite subject is math, and he is a senior, while Lauryn is 15, loves music, is a sophomore, and plans to go to college.  Both students attend Chamberlain High School.  For four weeks this summer, Tony’s job will be to read and categorize the Braille books that will be used for the Braille Challenge event next year, and Lauryn is creating a database on an adaptive laptop and entering all those books into her spreadsheet. In addition to their actual work experience, they will participate in activities that include career investigations, job shadowing, and mock interviews.  With financial assistance from the Department of Blind Services, they will also get the chance to go shopping to purchase career-appropriate clothing, lunch boxes, and school supplies and materials.   

The Summer Transition Program includes five-weeks of training in daily living skills, the work experience, and recreational activities (for Tony, this includes participating in a team game called Goalball, which is a sport for the blind that is similar to soccer), Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This program, for blind and visually impaired teens, prepares them for the responsibilities of adulthood by focusing on job readiness, social interaction, and independent living skills. An integral part of this program involves hands-on work experiences at local businesses. It also includes transportation to and from the work experience sites each day.  This summer, in addition to the FIMC-VI location, there are students working at Publix, Brandon Rental, Paperclips, Etc., Crystal Bay Café, and some are working as tutors/assistants at Burnett Middle School in the Visually Impaired classrooms.

Tony and Lauryn are bright, intelligent young people. Tony is well spoken in both English and Spanish.  Lauryn has endured six cataract surgeries in her young life but her smile is genuine and so is her positive attitude.  Both have been in HCPS schools since they were in kindergarten, and although they each have different career goals and interests, both realize that education is the key to a good future.  According to Andrea Wallace, Resource Teacher who is based at FIMC, “The partnership between the Lighthouse for the Blind and Hillsborough County Public Schools is an excellent relationship that truly benefits our visually impaired students.”

For more information about the Lighthouse for the Blind, please visit http://www.tampalighthouse.org/.  For more information about the Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired, visit www.fimcvi.org

 

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