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Mentorship

LightHouse Youth Program – Blind Kids are Doing it for Themselves

Students in our Cooking 101 class, mixing bowls at the ready, stand at their counters waiting to put a recipe together.What are a handful of motivated young blind people doing at the LightHouse early on a Saturday? The LightHouse Youth Program provides programming all year for energized youth who are blind or have low vision. One Saturday last month, the day went something like this:

Starting in the morning, LightHouse Volunteer Robin Patche led that week’s edition of Cooking 101. In this class we aim to teach young blind people how to be competent and confident in the kitchen. On the day’s agenda – how to make simple snacks such as smoothies, trail mix and cheese crackers, using accessible measuring cups, spoons and other cooking tools. Kitchen safety and sanitation were also incorporated into the discussion.

Next up, artist Ruthie Campbell Miller led the young people in an art project that had them using tissue paper to create tactile “paintings”. Why do young blind people benefit from art classes? Youth Program Coordinator Jamey Gump, who has low vision himself, told us, “We’re glad to have been able to offer an art class to the Youth Program and plan to reboot it in the fall. The more exposure students have to experience art their own way, the more they extend this sense of space to exploring and learning about their environment. Creating art can improve a blind person’s spatial acuity which in turn helps improve their ability to travel and to organize their environment.”

In the afternoon, Wells Fargo Personal Banker Nina Toia gave a presentation on how to successfully manage one’s money, including how to create a budget, what a credit score is and how to build credit. She answered both basic and complex questions and led a lively discussion on how the way in which we value the things we purchase can affect our budget.

An important aspect of our classes is introducing our younger blind students to blind college-aged mentors. This particular Saturday ended with a training session for the mentors. Jamey led a discussion about the best ways to make activities enjoyed by entire families work for both the sighted members and the members who are blind or have low vision.

Mentor Nasir, with a big grin on his face, practices how to roll an Oreo cookie from the forehead to the mouth without using ones hands.

Our Youth Program Fills a Great Need
A lot of times young people who are blind may not know anyone in their neighborhood or school system who is blind. While all of our Youth programming promotes the independence, camaraderie and creativity while having fun, perhaps the most important aspect of these gatherings is providing them with the opportunity to meet other blind young people. Likewise, a side benefit to the gatherings is that the parents who bring their kids to these classes and field trips also get the chance to meet other parents of blind youth and exchange advice and solutions about the various challenges they may face.

We plan on having new cooking and art classes for youth in the fall, so stay tuned. To sign up for our Youth Events e-newsletter or for more information about our Youth programs, contact LightHouse Youth Coordinator Jamey Gump at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7372.