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LightHouse Youth Services

YES Academy Week One: Cane skills, cooking and mock interviews

YES Academy Week One: Cane skills, cooking and mock interviews

It’s been a lively week at LightHouse headquarters with our three-week Summer Youth Employment Series (YES) underway. The 10th and 11th floors have been warm with the chatter of blind and visually impaired youth attending four classes a day including orientation & mobility, technology, living skills and job readiness trainings.

Many of the students at YES Academy are getting their first introductions to life skills like using a white cane, cooking, doing laundry, interviewing for jobs and volunteering. But it isn’t all work and no play. They also explored the city of San Francisco, including a ghost tour of Chinatown and a scavenger hunt at Fisherman’s Wharf.

This week they’re headed to camp and kayak in Tomales Bay, and then they’re off to Enchanted Hills Camp to spend a few days breathing the fresh air and learning the fundamentals of woodworking with blind woodworker George Wurtzel. The final week, a select group will attend the National Federation of the Blind Convention in Orlando, Florida. Here, students will meet thousands of blind role models from across the country, network with the National Association of Blind Students, peruse the aisles of the exhibition hall, participate in a nation-wide accessible job-fair and attend informative seminars.

“When we picked up the students at the airport not a single one of them was using a cane,” says Youth Services Coordinator Jamey Gump when we asked him about the most gratifying aspect of leading the program. “Now many of them feel confident to use their canes. It’s an important landmark for them to be comfortable with themselves and be able to identify as blind to allow the public to understand their needs.”

Romesha Laird is one of the YES students who started off the week having never used a cane before. She’s quickly taken to the mobility training and has found it an incredibly useful tool as she goes through this busy week of fun and self discovery.

“I’m just learning to use a cane,” she says. “I used to trip a lot and the cane makes me feel more confident. After this week, I feel a lot more motivated to use my cane when I’m walking around.”

Romesha is a high school student from San Bernardino, and when she’s not learning to making quick biscuits in the teaching kitchen or learning skills that will help her toward her goal of attending a four year college, she’s an avid cheerleader.

This week she discovered a mentor in YES Academy Counselor Danielle Fernandez.

“I really look up to Danielle,” she says. “She taught me a lot and showed me around. She also has the same condition as me, so we relate and understand each other.”

Romesha has already made up her mind that she’ll be headed back to YES next year.

“I am going to come back next year to learn more and get more experience and visit everyone at the LightHouse,” she says smiling.

Here are a few photos of Romesha practicing mobility in downtown San Francisco and volunteering to braille business cards in the MAD Lab.

Romesha smiles as she walks down Market Street with her white cane.
Romesha smiles as she walks down Market Street with her white cane.
Romesha helps emboss business cards with fellow YES Academy students in one of the LightHouse volunteer rooms.
Romesha helps emboss business cards with fellow YES Academy students in one of the LightHouse volunteer rooms.

Stay posted for more YES Academy updates in the coming weeks!

LightHouse Will Host the 2017 Braille Challenge for Northern California

LightHouse Will Host the 2017 Braille Challenge for Northern California

Photo: A smiling young girl wearing a purple braille challenge t-shirt types away at her brailler.

The Braille Challenge is an international competition in which braille readers compete to be the Olympians of blind literacy. Starting this month, blind and low vision students across the United States and Canada will begin clattering away on braillers and slates as they compete in a series of contests demonstrating braille reading and comprehension, speed and accuracy, spelling, proofreading, and tactile graphics, as they compete for thousands of dollars in prizes.

As part of the 2017 Braille Challenge, the LightHouse in San Francisco is proud to announce that our new headquarters will host the regional Challenge for Northern California. This preliminary round is open to students grades K through 12 of all skills levels, and the top-scoring 50 contestants nationally will be invited to Los Angeles in June for a two-day Final Round.

On February 25, students and their parents are invited to join us for a full day of braille events. The day will kick off with a guest speaker who will get the participants pumped up about braille and discuss the benefits of learning and practicing braille for future academic and employment success. Then the students will be let loose to compete. While students are showing off their braille-reading chops, parents and family members will have the chance to attend a series of workshops with presenters who will provide resources and information about further opportunities to encourage literacy, independence and self-confidence.

They will also have a chance to see the dozens of braille-related tools and devices carried by the LightHouse Adaptations store, many available nowhere else in the region.

This year, The Braille Challenge will be held at 46 different sites and proctored by up to 80 individual teachers of visually impaired students from across the US and Canada. Any visually impaired student who reads braille is eligible to participate in the preliminary Challenge contest events. Each contestant receives a brailled certificate of appreciation and general feedback on their performance, which will be sent to families and educators in May.

A big thank you to Junior Blind of Northern California and the Vista Center for co-presenting this event with us.

The Northern California Braille Challenge
Who: Blind and low vision braille readers, grades K-12
When: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., February 25, 2016
Where: LightHouse Headquarters
1155 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103

Registration Deadline: Friday, January 27, 2016

Registration is now open: 2017 Braille Challenge

Download the Northern California
Braille Challenge Registration Form.

The deadline to register for the Challenge is January 27, 2017. To register for the event please fill out and return the 2017 Permission Form. This form can be filled out digitally and sent via email to jgump@lighthouse-sf.org or mailed by post to LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Attn: James Gump, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103.

For questions or to register for the event contact Jamey Gump, LightHouse Youth Services Coordinator, at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7372.

Download and Print the Braille Challenge Save-the-Date.