From August 3rd – 8th, a group of teens with vision loss participated in CLB’s Transition Program. This program’s purpose is to inspire as well as challenge these students to demonstrate what it would be like to work in an office or perhaps give insight as to what to expect student life to be like in college. These youth ages 16-20 years of age stayed in dormitories at American University in Washington DC and were assigned to positions at local businesses.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Kyndall Sampson, a cheerful 16 year old who has Stargardt’s Disease which is a juvenile form of Macular Degeneration. Kyndall relies on the use of her peripheral vision, as things directly in front of her can be blurry.
Kyndall was extremely happy to open up about her experience with the Transition Program. Her internship was with CLB shadowing a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) throughout the week. During her stay, she took Metro to Silver Spring (eventually without any help from her mobility specialist), where she worked with toddlers with low vision. She played games with them and taught them how to rely on their other senses to learn instead of sight.
I asked Kyndall if she could pick one message or lesson to take away from her experience with the program and she said, “Having the confidence to know that I can do this by myself. Just because I have sight problems does not make me unable to do things that everyone else does.”
Other students had equally rewarding experiences at a Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind office, the DC Office of Disability Rights, the Washingtonian magazine, and the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center. All of the students were compensated for their work and the Washingtonian magazine will publish an article written by its assigned student.
The week capped off with a student-planned graduation ceremony at American University that included families of the students and entertainment from DJ Double M. Students were presented with certificates of achievement and heard positive feedback about their participation in the week’s activities.
On the final day of the program, the students enjoyed a day of fun and excitement at Six Flags where they relaxed and reflected on the Transition Program. The program was considered highly successful and is planned to continue next year.