One in a series of staff profiles.
“Life is something you need to enjoy,” opines James “Jamey” Gump, “I help my students reach their goals by making our events as fun as possible.” Jamey, LightHouse’s Youth Services Coordinator, works tirelessly to create and implement programming for our youth and transitional age (young adult) students.
Jamey is in his twenties and has been connected to the LightHouse for nearly his whole life. “I first visited Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind in middle school, I was a camper for four year and a counselor for six, and then I ran the Counselor in Training (CIT) classes for EHC, preparing the new crop of EHC counselors for the upcoming summer.” Jamey, who is visually impaired, came to EHC to enjoy nature, learn blindness skills, but most importantly, he came to help foster a community of friends and mentors who are also blind. “Blind and visually impaired youth need to know that they aren’t alone, but it’s hard to appreciate that fact when you’re the only blind kid in your school, town, or area. Enchanted Hills Camp helped me enter the blindness world with confidence, cane first, so that I can partake in the greater world more richly.”
While studying engineering at San Jose State Jamey suddenly had an epiphany. He said, “I didn’t want to work with data and formulae; based on my time at EHC I knew that I wanted to work with people, so I switched paths.” Now he’s our full-time Youth Services Coordinator, and is also earning degrees in both Early Child Education and Human Development. “Human Development is about the general processes we all undergo as we age, and understanding those developmental benchmarks helps me appreciate my students, and also meet their particular needs.” His education, coupled with his experience, makes Jamey an enormous asset to the LightHouse because he understand how to teach young kids, work with older youth, and help young adults navigate their changing lives.
To meet the needs of his students, Jamey is creating dynamic youth and transitional age programming that is getting our future blind leaders out in their communities while building their independence and self-confidence. He said, “We go horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hiking and skiing to show our students that they can do just about anything. It’s remarkable to watch a teen wallflower, who not too long ago was afraid to ride MUNI, now leading a team of whitewater rafting blind youth, leaving his perceived limitations in the wake of his boat.” LightHouse Youth also volunteer in Bay Area communities in a program called PRO: People Reaching Out. PRO participants work to help the greater community and also people within the blindness community For example, PRO youth worked with the Red Cross to make emergency preparedness booklets and kits that are specially designed for the blind. “All of our community, including blind members of our area, needs to be prepared for earthquakes. We assemble kits to make emergency preparedness possible for the blind.” Jamey emphasizes that the PRO youth group is partially run by the youth themselves, which instills leadership skills and encourages the youth to pursue volunteer projects that most interest them.
One of Jamey’s proudest moments at the LightHouse is when he coordinated a LightHouse Youth trip to the National Federation of the Blind’s convention in Orlando, Florida. The convention is a fantastic mentoring and networking opportunity for blind youth entering college and/or the workforce. “Young adults who had been coddled growing up or were reluctant to travel were suddenly a continent away from home, with an assembly of thousands of blind adults; strong, influential leaders in the blindness community and their communities at large. One young man who is blind had never left California. He was very nervous about traveling to Orlando, a place 2500 miles outside of his comfort zone. Within one day of being in balmy Florida, this young man’s courage escalated to heights even Jamey didn’t anticipate. Jamey told us, “He greeted every person he met by introducing himself and asking for their name and where they were from. He came back from Florida stronger, more confident, eager to explore the world – cane first – with pride.”
Jamey’s youth programming contains an astonishing array of activities, many of which are held on the weekends and after school. Jamey has put together blind cooking classes; music classes; excursions to museums, parks, and cultural events; trips to see the Giants and an upcoming Cal Berkeley Golden Bears baseball game where LightHouse youth will have an opportunity to join the baseball teams on the field; and physical activities such as rock climbing and goalball, a game designed specifically for the blind. “I’m extremely interested in Recreational Therapy – even attending a baseball game can be a truly transformative experience for blind youth; so I focus my energy on creating programming that is fun first, but always reinforces skills and confidence building.”
When Jamey isn’t at the LightHouse, he’s probably exploring the wilderness. “I love camping and bringing my guide dog, Windsor, out to the woods where we enjoy the fresh air or sitting around the fire making dinner. Some blind people are intimidated by being in the forest, where there are no clear paths of travel, and where branches may hit your face before you cane, but I love the challenge.” When the weather isn’t cooperating, Jamey also loves assembling his closest friends to have a “Stupid Movie Night.,” “We look for the worst movie and watch it while making fun of the acting, plot, or anything else that’s totally, well, stupid. We often don’t make it further than the first 30 minutes, but it’s a great ice breaker, and can lead to some ridiculously fun conversations.”
Jamey is planning future Youth trips to blindness conventions such as California Council of the Blind, and wants to hear from young adults who are interested in joining the LightHouse on these life changing excursions. If you, or someone you know, is a youth or young adult learning to navigate the world as an independent person who is blind, or if you want to expand your network of friends your own age, please contact Jamey Gump at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 415-694-7372.