"Skills to Pay the Bills" Pays Off For Visually Impaired Youth
Five local students who are blind or visually impaired are participating in the 5 week Summer Youth Work Experience at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. They are earning a wage and learning valuable skills through the educational component. “Skills to Pay the Bills” is aimed at teaching independent living skills such as budgeting, organizational skills, and time management. Through the work experience component students are learning workplace specific skills such as communication, teamwork, networking, and professionalism. “Graduating without having prior work experience is difficult for anyone, but it is even more difficult for those who are blind or visually impaired. This program helps them build confidence, while also developing the soft skills.” says Chuck Geiger, an Employment Specialist at Clovernook Center. When Zeshaan -a high school sophomore- expressed his passion for technology and interest in becoming a software engineer, Geiger placed him at Multistate Center East -a division of Clovernook Center working with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)-. “I always thought that jobs wouldn’t be available for me because of my eyesight. I assumed my limitations would narrow my options – but Clovernook Center has helped me realize that this isn’t the case.” Over the past 4 years students have been placed in positions within the community at country clubs, sports clubs, and garden centers. This year they are working in reception and throughout the braille and industrial operations departments at Clovernook Center. “This is a great place for their work experience; we have supports and accommodations already in place, which allows the students to gain competitive work experience” says Geiger. Emily will be returning to school as a junior this fall. She is studying to become an accountant, and has been interning as a receptionist, “This is my first real work experience and it is giving me a lot of confidence for my career. I am able to develop real world experience in a blind-friendly environment.” Similarly, Kaiti, -also a junior- will be using the skills she has developed as a collator to further her career aspirations in music therapy. Chuck Geiger’s goal is to expand the summer youth work experience opportunities “We know that when youth who are blind or visually impaired have similar experiences to friends at school they engage on a deeper level and we see them grow,” which is why expanding these opportunities is so important. “A lot of people want to work, but transportation is a challenge. Our goal moving forward is to find transportation options, or funding for transportation that will allow more interns to participate in this experience, and develop skills that will allow them to confidently pursue their career goals.” Summer interns this year come from the following communities: Fairfield, Monfort Heights, Newtown/Anderson Township, and West Chester.
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