Each year, Oak Hill runs a program called “LEEP”, which stands for Low vision/Blind Educational Employment Program. This year, we ran the program from Sunday, July 15 to Saturday, July 21. We stayed at the University of Hartford with the 7 students who participated.
Our main purpose is to show our students that they can obtain a job upon graduation from high school, or continue onto college after their high school graduation. The age range of our students is between 16 and 23. These students all have some degree of vision loss, which can range from quite a bit of usable vision, to no vision at all.
Our students experienced many educational and exciting activities during the program. First, they met with the Oak Hill Human Resources department, where they had the chance to do an interactive activity to prepare them for future job interviews. Next, the students traveled to the North Hampton V.A. where they met several veterans who experienced vision loss. These men and women each shared how vision loss impacted them and how they overcame their situations. After the V.A. visit, students participated in a tactile astronomy activity. This was a huge success and several of our students want to take astronomy courses while they are in college.
On Tuesday, we traveled to a local horse barn where the students got a chance to touch many animals including rabbits, turtles, donkeys, chickens, and horses. The weather was too hot to ride the horses, but everyone got the chance to brush and walk the horses in an attempt to keep them cool.
During Wednesday, we traveled to Boston and had a tour of the W.G.B.H. studios. This is the place where audio description is done for movies and TV shows here in America. The tour was impressive and the students learned about how these descriptions are written, narrated, and produced. As Thursday and Friday came and went, the students toured a local massage school to learn about careers in massage therapy, participated in a Yoga class, enjoyed a drumming session with exotic instruments and had a chance to thank the funders during a closing banquet.
Saturday morning, everyone packed their belongings and said goodbye to the staff after another great week of learning and fun. This year’s group was particularly close. During the drumming session, the group made up a song for “LEEP” and they wish to have it be the theme for each year’s group in the future. I always enjoy being a part of this program each year because the students have so many different experiences. When I was a young adult, there weren’t any local programs like this for people with low vision and blindness. It always seemed like people treated me as a child, even when I got older. In our program, we treat our students as adults and we allow them to make their own decisions each day. For example, we don’t set a bed time. We simply tell the students the schedule for the week and remind them that they need to be awake each day and take an active role in participating in all of the planned activities. This works out well and many students have thanked us for giving them the opportunity to be a part of the program while retaining their independence.