YES Academy students with white canes stand in front of restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown

Reflections from the YES Academy Class of 2019

Each year, LightHouse offers an intensive summer program for youth ages 16-24, which includes time spent away from home. The Youth Employment Series (YES) Academy is a four-week immersive experience held at LightHouse Headquarters in San Francisco to gain first-hand knowledge about building confidence, being a “team player,” identifying strengths and interests, and finding direction through interactive work-based learning experiences designed to develop job-readiness skills.

In June, this year’s group tackled a blindness skills boot camp, met with blind mentors, visited college campuses, attended a blindness convention and completed work experience, which they traveled to independently.

Here are reflections from a few of the students from the YES Academy Class of 2019:

Jenn, who interned at the Exploratorium, a science museum, explained, “I got to oversee prototypes for a biology exhibit. As a Molecular Biology major, this was absolutely perfect! I got so excited reviewing the 3D models of cheek cells and giving my recommendations. The exhibit designer, Denise, was so enthusiastic and I loved engaging in discussion with her. We were really trying to take biological concepts and make them physical, tangible objects for the public to understand and interact with. The new exhibit will be displayed in October and will represent how cells ‘fit’ together to form tissues via a puzzle visitors must put together using the 3D printed models.”

Matt discussed the impact YES Academy mentors had on him. “After breakfast every morning, we had a “mentor spotlight.” These spotlights were my favorite aspect of the Summer Academy. I enjoyed how the mentors explained their stories about going blind, and also being successful. I learned extremely valuable information on individuals who have become blind later in life, which I can apply directly to my own life.”

Nikki talked about the independence he got to experience. “This was my first time doing the YES Academy. This summer, I decided to take the jump and sign up. I was really looking forward to the living skills component. My favorite thing over the last four weeks has been the amount of responsibility and the room to grow that you receive. You’re responsible for going to your work location on your own, without assistance. You’re responsible for buying your own food to make lunches. You’re responsible for reporting to your employers on time, in a professional manner and you’re responsible for completing all the assignments that your employer gives you. I had never traveled on my own before. There was true independence in this program.”

For more information about Youth programs at LightHouse visit the Youth Programs page or email youth@lighthouse-sf.org.

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