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YES Academy

Reflections from the 2020 YES Academy

Reflections from the 2020 YES Academy

Despite the many changes to LightHouse programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Youth Programs team rose to the challenge of adapting the Summer Youth Employment Series (YES) Academy to go ahead online. This summer, our YES students participated in a five-week virtual academy filled with engaging, interactive activities to help them gain employment and independent living skills. S]tudents also learned how to investigate their career interests along the way.

Read the first four parts of the series below.

Want to find out more about LightHouse’s youth programs for the fall? Email youth@lighthouse-sf.org.

Jump to Week One
Jump to Week Two
Jump to Week Three
Jump to Week Four
Jump to Week Five

Week One: New Discoveries

Fernando Olivera, age 18

Fernando Olivera

Mondays are our mentor spotlights, where a guest or two comes on and discusses their hardships and challenges they faced while pursuing their career or growing up as a blind/low vision individual. They also discuss how they overcame those hardships and what they learned from those experiences. I find the mentor spotlight empowering and intriguing, since it makes me reflect on my personal life and what adjustments I could make in my life, if any.

On Wednesdays, we dedicate that day to learning independent living skills (ILS), and Orientation & Mobility (O&M). This is the time where we can learn about many aspects of living independently and learning different O&M tools, such as learning how to use and read tactile maps, GPS, navigation apps, etc. I also enjoy this aspect of the YES academy because in ILS, I don’t feel like I’m just limited to cleaning, washing dishes, doing laundry, etc. The prospect of being able to cook on a stove or in an oven, truly excites me and makes me wonder about all the possibilities that can be accomplished. As for O&M, I find it informative. Yes, it’s not like get full O&M in person. However, it does open other doors to explore other tools. As I previously mentioned, learning how to read and understand a tactile map was very fun to learn. Honestly, I never sought a reason to ever use a tactile map, but they can come in really handy, especially if you’re going to college and the campus is too big. I learned a lot of maps and what certain things indicate.

On Friday, it’s our social hour, where we relax and get to know one another. We discuss general topics or whatever folks throw out there. It’s just a very different atmosphere compared to our busy Monday and Wednesday meetings. It’s also a great way for us to get acquainted with the other YES academy students and mentors.

All in all, the YES summer academy has been a great and memorable experience. Thus far, it has really made me reflect on certain aspects of life that I never took into consideration. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the academy and what it has to offer.

Mason Fessenden, age 19

This first week of the program was a blast for me! I really enjoyed getting to know my peers and being able to collaborate with each other. During these past sessions, I really liked hearing the panelists in discussing how they navigate life as a blind/visually impaired person and their career goals. During O&M, I learned how to read a tactile map, which I am slowly getting the hang of, but I can happily enjoy it a lot more than I did when I started. I hope to hear more panelists, continuing my engagement within the program, and grow and develop more skills that I didn’t think I could do, (like map reading), and prove to myself that I can do those things. I would also like to be less anxious during these weeks as I tend to be.

Leslie Jaramillo, age 18

Leslie Jaramillo

This is my first time doing the YES Summer Academy. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever done a summer program virtually through Zoom. I’ve really enjoyed the first week of the academy so far. Monday July 6 was the first day of the academy and I had so much fun. We began at 10 with an overview on how the academy was going to look for the remainder of the program. After the overview, we had a mentor spotlight which I also really enjoyed. On Wednesday, we were divided into 2 groups. One group did independent living skills and the other did Orientation & Mobility (O&M). For the second session, the groups then switched activities. On Friday, I had an O&M session which was very fun because I learned how to utilize an app called Soundscape by Microsoft. Finally, the entire staff has been very helpful and supportive. I’m looking forward to continuing on with the program.

Week Two: Convention Time

In part two, students discuss attending a virtual blindness convention and learning how other blind youth advocated for themselves.

Mason Fessenden, age 19

During the sessions, I learned a lot about the disability rights movement and advocating for accessibility in the classroom. My favorite part was the meeting on the topic of accessibility when one of the students in high school had mentioned her struggles of getting a test in an accessible format, and how she fought with the College Board to receive an accessible test, and how the board later agreed to help her. I loved the convention.

Like Mason, the student advocating for themselves struck a chord with Fernando as well.

Fernando Olivera, age 18

We attended several sessions given by the National Association of Blind Students (NABS). The part I found most informative was about a blind student who fought the college board to make the SAT accessible to all. If sighted students had access to it, then why couldn’t she? I really liked how she fought back and advocated for herself. Things like that make people realize that blind individuals have voices, too. I’m glad she didn’t just take no for an answer.

Just knowing that there are other blind individuals that have gone through life and been successful at it, is a great feeling.

Week Three: Leveling Up Kitchen Skills and Finding Your GPS Groove

Mason Fessenden, age 19

These weeks of the YES summer Academy have been very informative for me. I learned how to properly measure food in a bowl using the appropriate measuring spoon that I received in my box of LightHouse goodies. That was very enjoyable, because very seldom do I measure food independently and cook on my own. I also enjoyed the GPS Orientation & Mobility presentation, because aside from Microsoft Soundscape, Google and Apple Maps, I didn’t know the other apps existed and would be useful and accessible. Now I have a better understanding of these apps.

I enjoyed (eating) and creating a marshmallow tower with spaghetti noodles as well as making ice cream. One thing I‘ve learned about cooking is to prep ingredients ahead of time and know which ingredients go in the correct order, as well as the measurement sizes of the spoons and cups.

Leslie Jaramillo, age 18

In week three for the YES Summer Academy we had a [blind] mentor spotlight which I really enjoyed, because these spotlights make me reflect on my personal life by making me think about what adjustments I could make, if any.

On Tuesday, I attended the “So You Think You Want a Guide Dog” workshop. I enjoyed attending this workshop, because it gave a lot of information to think about regarding getting a guide dog and what it would be like as a guide dog handler. Honestly, what I figured out when attending this workshop, was that currently I’m not ready to have a guide dog because I won’t be able to give the dog the necessary attention that it needs.

On Wednesday we had sessions in ILS (Independent Living Skills) and O&M (Orientation & Mobility). I really liked the ILS session because we learned how to utilize the measuring cups and spoons by learning how to level things properly. On Friday I had my last O&M session with my instructor Marie. I really enjoyed it because I learned how to use the BlindSquare app.

Fernando Olivera, age 18

Week three was pretty busy. On Monday, we had our normal mentor spotlight. The first person was Tim Elder. He talked about being an attorney for disability rights and what it’s like working in that particular field. He talked a little about his background and where he went to school. As for our second session, we had Shen Kuan. He talked about using tech such as computers and phones and how the software and apps work on both Mac and Windows computers.

On Tuesday, I attended an online guide dog workshop via Zoom. I learned a lot. I thought I knew a good amount, but the workshop provided more details and information that I wasn’t aware of. On Wednesday, we had ILS and our O&M class. In ILS, we learned the different sizes of measuring cups and spoons, which was really helpful for me, since I want to learn how to cook. We also learned how to level out the item that’s in the cup/spoon. For example, we used rice and we practiced filling different cups with uncooked rice and learned how to level it. We could either use a butter knife, finger, or anything else that had a flat surface. Again, I feel like I learned quite a bit for this ILS session. For O&M, we learned how to use GPS and navigational apps. We technically learned 5 apps, but out of the those five, three were the main focus. I found that I liked Microsoft Soundscape the best. I also learned that you can get step by step directions on Apple Maps, which I think is cool because it can come in handy, especially if you’re in a new place.

On Friday, I met with my O&M instructor for our last meeting and we discussed many characteristics of an intersection. That day we also had our social hour, where we talked about what could happen if someone adds too much details in a speech or idea. We used liquids to sort of get an understanding of how too much can ruin a topic. I thought that little experiment was pretty neat and helped some people understand the meaning of too much information.

Week Four: Speeches, Interviews and Ice Cream

Fernando Olivera, age 18

Week four of the YES Summer Academy was pretty interesting. On Monday, we began with a little activity that involved playing cards, dry long thin noodles, and marshmallows. The point of this activity was to see how well a person could communicate with others. It was fun. Then we had our mentor spotlight with Joe [Strechay]. He is a blind producer who works on an Apple TV+ show called “See”. I think I would’ve really benefited if I had talked to him when I was going through a phase where I wanted to be an actor.

Wednesday, we did speeches. I thought two minutes was not enough time. I think three minutes or more would’ve been a little better. I would’ve loved to talk more. Then again, the topic I chose had lots of information. After speeches, we had our last ILS session where we did an ice cream challenge. The ice cream was very easy to make, and the instructions were clear. My ice cream turned out gross, but I think it’s because I shook it too much. Mine had a weird consistency. It’s pretty difficult to explain. The best I can explain is that it was thicker than butter. On Thursday, I had an informational interview. I found it cool how the person I interviewed is working to make construction sites and streets accessible. For example, private cars aren’t allowed on the street. But other forms of transportation are still being allowed like buses and bicycles. So, since bicycles are allowed to get through, they made a bike path. One side of the path is for bikes and the other side is for people to walk on. The path has a line in the middle to let people know what side to be on. A blind or low vision person wouldn’t be able to tell if they’re stepping on the line or not, so instead of the line being painted, the city would add tactile markings.

On Friday, we had our social hour, and had a virtual talent/passion show. Where if we’re passionate about something, we share. Or if we have a talent, we share. I feel like people didn’t want to share what they’re passionate about, but then the conversation switched to people’s biggest pet peeves. That was definitely fun. I feel like people were more comfortable sharing their pet peeves and it really got the conversation flowing and us starting to get to know each other.

Leslie Jaramillo, age 18

On Monday we had another mentor spotlight. I liked this week’s mentor spotlight because a mentor talked about his experiences of being interviewed.

Wednesday, we had our presentations. I had so much fun. Honestly, I usually get nervous when I’m going to present, but when I did my presentation, I wasn’t nervous at all.  Also, we had a cooking competition. I really enjoyed this because we learned how to make ice cream.

On Thursday, I had my informational interview. I really liked doing this because I got to connect with Ethan Meigs who works in the IT department.

On Friday, we had a social hour. It was really fun, because we had a really engaging conversation. Thus far, the YES Summer Academy has really been a memorable experience.

Week Five: Final Thoughts

In the final week, students reflect on their overall experiences and, as a bonus, we hear from a Peer Mentor.

Ian Doporto, age 21

Ian Doporto

Time has moved differently during shelter in place. While initially I felt a surge of uneasiness (which I still am feeling from time to time, minute to minute), I’m happy to say that, I was able to spend my time well as a student of the YES Summer Academy. There’s a bushel of stuff and experiences I have been enjoying but I’m going to focus on only a couple of moments in case any reader gets tired of my slovenly drollery.

I particularly enjoyed team activities (even if I wasn’t completely at my best with all of them). For a long time, I wasn’t too keen on what we were going to be doing with marshmallows, but I knew it was going to be something engaging and that we had to be an active participant. I was able to make a half tower of sorts that didn’t necessarily turn out the way it was supposed to, because I didn’t get all of the directions. I learned that I should’ve communicated better and should’ve spoken up beforehand to say that my peer instructor’s directions were not very clear. I was still more than ecstatic to be part of something interesting.

The future is a winding staircase, a tunnel of opportunities. In order to help myself with accessibility and tools that I’ve needed, I decided it would be a good idea to get an insight on the pros, cons, responsibilities, and adventures in having a canine/companion. I have a few friends that have guide dogs (including one that I’ve known since I was little). I learned the truths and untruths and a few myths about guide dogs that were debunked. The most important thing I took from this lecture is that just because you have a guide dog, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be able to use a cane to move around. To sum up [Rehabilitation Teaching Specialist] Bobbi Pompey’s lecture: in order for your guide dog to be a good fit for you, you need to help the dog as much as the dog helps you, because people and animals are very social, and you should communicate, establishing a connection with them. Establishing boundaries and routines for a guide dog can be fun, but I was glad to be informed of the responsibilities that come with caring for a new friend! I guess until then, when I feel ready for a guide dog in the future, my cat who’s been with me for almost a decade will have to do. She’s not exactly certified, but at the very least she’s got the emotional support down!

Mason Fessenden, age 19

This program has been fun, despite being bittersweet as the YES Summer Academy nears its end. I had a great time doing my mock interview for a job as a Spanish translator. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to gain more exposure to this type of job. I also enjoyed the program mentors and staff sharing their personal stories about advocacy as well as accommodations. I will definitely miss this program and will still hopefully work with my mentor on other goals in the near future.

Fernando Olivera, age 18

On Monday, we talked about jobs and interviews. We also had our last mentor spotlight. I really enjoyed Deborah Armstrong’s talk and her very interesting stories about life before the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her stories inspired me. If she managed to do all the things she said when things were barely accessible and when computers were new, it makes me realize that we as young blind adults are so lucky to have the things we have today. Whether it’s a screen reader or BrailleNote [a type of braille display]. It makes life and school/work more manageable. I think she was a great person to end on for the mentor spotlights.
On Wednesday, we were split into two groups. My group was first to do a behavioral interview, or a mock interview. I had fun, but I got pretty nervous when actually doing it. Even though, I chose my own questions, I still had nerves. I got great feedback on what I need to improve on. My group was then placed into an advocacy discussion. We talked about advocating in college for accommodations that one would need. I already knew most of the concepts, but I did learn about a few others that I wasn’t aware of. 
Friday, the last official day, was different than our typical social hour. We recorded ourselves during the week talking about what we took away in the program. These were our vlogs that were put into a slide show of all the students of the YES Summer Academy. We ended at 7:30 p.m., when I felt like it actually sunk in that it was going to be our last meeting together as a group. I mean, we were in three-hour meetings, three days a week, for five weeks. People ought to have felt something. I sure did!
Overall, I really enjoyed the academy. Would I recommend it? Definitely. I would love to go in person and experience the full program “live”. Thank you, mentors and staff, for an awesome five weeks. I’m sure next year’s program, whether it’s virtual or not, is going to be great, just like it was this year!

Peer Mentor Reflections from Daisy Soto

Daisy and her guide dog Miles

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of both this year’s virtual, and past years’ in-person YES Academies, which I believe affected my perception of the overall experience. I came into the Academy excited to work with, teach, and mentor a completely new group of students, but felt apprehensive about how easily those organic connections and mentoring moments would happen via a virtual platform. I found myself wondering both if students would still be able to form those meaningful friendships with one another, and curious as to whether we’d still be able to establish the same levels of comfortability with them as the weeks passed.
As part of our curriculum we included both group meetings as well as individual touch-base/lesson time, the latter of which I feel was quite beneficial in helping establish those student connections. It seemed that as the weeks went by and students connected with staff/mentor’s one-on-one, they found it easier to speak out and engage more during our group meetings. It was also wonderful to get that individual time to know students; I found that many of the students I worked with felt more comfortable initially opening up or asking for help during these times. The thing about a virtual YES Academy is that it did have to involve more constant scheduling and structure for every activity, which I didn’t necessarily dislike, but definitely found to be a different experience. Additionally, students establishing new friendships/networking with one another was something I felt inevitably lacked through a virtual platform. I personally prefer a hands-on, in-person way of working with students, but was surprised at how well both students and I adapted to the circumstances. I’m very grateful to have been part of this Academy and feel very proud of our students and all the ways in which they’ve improved, come out of their shells, and remained focused and committed.

To find out more about LightHouse Youth Programs, contact  youth@lighthouse-sf.org.

Youth Employment Series (YES) 2020 Summer Academy Applications Open

Youth Employment Series (YES) 2020 Summer Academy Applications Open

Our Youth Employment Series (YES Academy) is happening again this year for working-aged young people. Students take part in interactive learning opportunities as they participate in work-based learning experiences. They’ll meet life-long friends, mentors and supportive LightHouse staff. They will also have the opportunity to go to one of the biggest blindness conventions in the world. Not to mention, gaining skills needed to get hired.

Apply for the summer 2020 YES Academy

This transformative academy could not happen without the support of mentors and work-experience host organizations. If you or someone you know would be interested in serving in either of these roles, please contact Ann Wai-Yee Kwong, Transition Program Specialist, at youth@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7328.

Reflections from the YES Academy Class of 2019

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.

Photos: Meet the YES Academy class of 2018

Photos: Meet the YES Academy class of 2018

On Saturday, July 21, students gathered to celebrate their graduation from the Youth Employment Series (YES) Academy, LightHouse’s employment readiness program. Students ages 16 to 24 attended the month-long immersive program, which aims to build confidence through learning first-hand knowledge, collaborating, identifying strengths and interests and gaining a sense of direction through interactive work-based experiences.

Students organized, prepared and served a three-course dinner for the occasion. The graduates looked sharp in semi-formal attire that they selected and styled in conjunction with a professional attire seminar and a group outing to Macy’s.

Jose serves pasta to a table of guests
Jose serves freshly cooked pasta with meatballs to a table of guests
Kayla, her mother and a friend enjoying dinner seated at the table
Kayla, her mother and a friend enjoy salad and appetizers

Meet YES Academy 2018

This year’s YES Academy students each had their own immersive job experience in the community, commuting to and from work while staying in the residential facilities at the LightHouse’s downtown San Francisco headquarters. We caught up with them at the YES family banquet this weekend. Their names are listed alongside the company that they worked at this summer, along with quotes from each student about their experience.

Portrait of Kyle
Portrait of Kyle

Kyle – Center for Independent Living

“I did some inventorying of random assistive technology tools that they had. I also helped administer a presentation at senior retirement housing, where we showed off some assistive technology tools that might be able to help them.”

Portrait of Jose
Portrait of Jose

Jose – LightHouse Sirkin Center

“You need to manage your time, [otherwise] stuff starts to pile up.”

Portrait of Andy
Portrait of Andy

Andy – LightHouse Sirkin Center

“I packaged toilet paper to send off to war-torn countries. That was a very good experience.”

Portrait of Erick
Portrait of Erick

Erick – LightHouse Sirkin Center

“I actually had to do different stuff including reworking, sorting items, and then I had to do some machinery work.”

Portrait of Santiago
Portrait of Santiago

Santiago – Call of the Sea

“I went through the entire website catalog, all of the pages, and I looked at what was accessible, what was not accessible, what was somewhat accessible and needed to be improved. I wrote a business report with the details as to what needed to be improved and what the best way would be to improve it.”

Portrait of Steven
Portrait of Steven

Steven – Call of the Sea

“Me and my partner Santiago just worked on business reports, analyzing the company’s website and seeing how we can make it more accessible and what next steps the company needs to do to make it possible for blind or visually impaired people to access their website easier.”

Portrait of Kayla
Portrait of Kayla

Kayla  Roxie Theater

“It’s motivated me to send my resume and apply for other jobs.”

Portrait of Richard
Portrait of Richard

Richard – Roxie Theater

“I worked at the cash register. I wasn’t good at it but I kept at it, and I got better, and now it’s not a weakness anymore.”

 Looking for more information or to get involved in LightHouse Youth programs? Email youth@lighthouse-sf.org


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!

October Youth Employment Series (YES) Workshop

October Youth Employment Series (YES) Workshop

Photo: YES Academy students raise their arms in happy unison while seated in a MUNI F-Line heritage streetcar.

Would you like to be a YES Protégé?
We are currently seeking protégés for the Youth Employment Series (YES). Protégés will benefit from vocational and blindness skills training, meaningful work and volunteer opportunities, as well as career-specific mentorships with the working blind. This informative monthly series will provide transition-aged youth who are blind or have low vision with vital skills that will help them become more successful as they pursue their academic and employment dreams.

The October YES workshop is Making Advocacy Awesome!
Saturday, October 8, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Where: the new LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103.
Who:  Candidates must  be transition aged students ages 14 to 26 who are blind or have low vision. They must be eligible for transitional rehabilitation services, deemed legally blind by a physician or accredited agency, and able to fulfill the training and work required by the program.

Is There a Cost to Attend the YES Workshops?
The cost to attend one of the LightHouse Youth Employment Series workshops is $175 per day-long workshop. In addition to the day’s activities and curriculum, students will receive a light breakfast, lunch and refreshments throughout the day. Department of Rehabilitation authorizations or other payment source must be secured before students will be eligible to participate.

If you have any questions or wish to apply, please contact Youth Services Coordinator Richie Flores at rflores@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7328.

Topics that will be discussed in October include but are not limited to:

  • Instruction in self-advocacy, individual rights, self-determination skills, and the informed consent process, as well as peer mentoring
  • Learn about accommodations available to college students and those entering the workforce
  • Acquire and use blindness skills that will enrich life and help achieve ones goals, be more confident and learn how to advocate needs
  • Learn how to smoothly navigate through any system as a student transitioning into college from high school or from college to a career
  • Learn strategies that will help student make strong and positive first impressions
  • Learn how to develop, enhance and utilize ones network and relationship with peers and mentors

Additional Scheduled Workshops for Fall

Making Work Exciting
Saturday, November 12, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.



Two-Week YES Academy Takes Blind Kids from San Francisco to Orlando to More Independence

Two-Week YES Academy Takes Blind Kids from San Francisco to Orlando to More Independence

Photo: YES group sit around one of the many tables in the conference hall. LightHouse Youth Coordinator Jamey Gump sits at 9 o’clock, then going clockwise around the table: student Kyle Garcia, LightHouse mentor Sergio Lopez, student Billy Lei, LightHouse mentor Danielle Fernandez, students Robin Patche, Kevin Brousard, Christina Parra, Santiago Hernandez and Jacob Obeso.

In July close to a dozen LightHouse Youth attended our inaugural YES Academy – a two-week session for students ages 16 to 24 with the aim of teaching them to be more independent, confident and successful. During the first week of the training, students stayed at the new LightHouse Building in San Francisco. The students experienced full days that included classroom work, assignments and challenges both inside and outside our offices, mixed with time to relax, talk, have fun, compare notes and enjoy making friends and bonding with fellow blind students.

students in teaching kitchen

Photo: YES Academy students gather in our teaching kitchen for lunch.

Throughout the first week students benefited from a robust curriculum including outstanding blind college students as well as blind speakers representing a wide variety of career choices, a tour of the UC Berkeley campus, discussions that focused on becoming more independent and on finding work, including the use of adaptive technology, the importance of organization, best practices for writing resumes and cover letters and how to go on a job interview. They also experienced the excitement and fun of navigating the Bay Area while practicing their mobility skills. They traveled throughout the San Francisco on public transportation, participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade, walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, visited Pier 39 and went to the movies (using the recently-launched Disney Movies Anywhere audio-description iPhone app to watch the film Finding Dory.)


students cross golden gate bridge

Photo: Brandishing white canes and dog guides, YES Academy students cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

YES Academy and Fortune Dragon

Photo: Students Christina Parra, Robin Patche and Moe Josefowicz stand next to the colorful Fortune Dragon statue that sits in front of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

Week two brought the adventure all had been waiting for: the cross-country flight to Orlando, Florida where the group attended the annual National Federation of the Blind (NFB) National Convention. For some it was their very first time on an airplane. LightHouse Youth Services Coordinator Jamey Gump, who supervised the group throughout the two-week period told us, “The kids pretty much were struck by the scale and diversity of the conference right away. Imagine you are maybe the only kid in your school or in your community who is blind. Now imagine the impact of walking into a hall where there are thousands of blind people with their white canes or dog guides. Or attending a huge banquet where pretty much everyone there can relate in one way or another to your life experience? That’s amazingly empowering.”

Serena and Santiago

Photo: LightHouse Evening and Weekend Coordinator Serena Olsen stands with student Santiago Hernandez next to seated audience members in the NFB Conference Hall.

Included in their schedule: exploring the Exhibit Hall where vendors displayed adaptive technology and attending the Conference General Session, the National Association of Blind Students seminar and a youth mixer with kids from all across the country including Arizona and Maryland.

LightHouse Evening and Weekend Coordinator Serena Olsen, who supervised the kids overnight and in Orlando loved seeing changes in the kids, even in such a short period of time. She said, “Overall I saw a growing awareness among the group that it’s “okay” to be blind. I watched them become more comfortable in their own skin as blind people. For some or all of them there’s this idea of leaving home for the first time and that you can’t take your parents with you to, say, college. YES Academy gave them the chance to try new strategies and succeed, or even fail sometimes, in a safe space.”

Student Sarkis (Sako) Meehran Gekchyan summed up the feelings of many who attended, by saying, “The experience I had at The YES Academy was invaluable. I can safely say that no other program for the blind that I have participated in has impacted me so strongly, so positively and so permanently as this one. The lessons I have learned from staying at the LightHouse and the NFB convention have stuck. Doing this program was exactly what I needed. I was able to see blind people who took charge of their lives and were making a positive change not only for themselves but for others. I learned a lot both from my fellow students and the speakers and the mentors. It was the first time I ever felt a deep sense of pride in my blindness, the first time I actually felt like a part of the blind Community. The very people I once tried to distance myself from are now one of my greatest sources of inspiration and most importantly my second family.”

If you have any questions about YES Academy, please contact Youth Services Coordinators Jamey Gump at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org/415-694-7372 or Richie Flores at rflores@lighthouse-sf.org/415-694-7328.

Throughout the year we hold individual LightHouse YES workshops. Our first workshop is on Saturday, September 10.

Read more about YES workshops.