[tabi] 7/29 Article: Visually impaired teens get a lesson in independence

  • From: Lighthouse of the Big Bend <lighthousebigbend@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: tabi <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 09:30:19 -0400

Hi everyone,
Thought you might be interested in this article in the Tallahassee
Democrat today (7/29/09).
Great job, Summer Transition Program teachers & students! - Barbara

July 29, 2009
Visually impaired teens get a lesson in independence
Lighthouse of the Big Bend gives youth a chance to showcase talents

By TaMaryn Waters

Each teen had a story about how he or she became visually impaired or blind.

Katelyn Arrington, 19, began losing her sight in 2005. She remembers
unbearable headaches. Soon, tests detected too much spinal fluid was
collecting on her brain. And that was putting pressure on her retinas.
"I cried about it," Arrington said of the pain.

Eleven teens listened to each other. In the process, they found they
were all bonded by the desire to be more independent.

A free eight-week summer program, provided through the Lighthouse of
the Big Bend, Guiding People Through Vision Loss, helped them get
closer to their dream. The teens learned everyday skills, such as
ironing, cooking dishes, getting around through the city's Dial-A-Ride
program and using computers.

Executive Director Barbara Ross said it was intense since the teens
were with her staff five days a week.

The agency receives money from the Florida Department of Education's
Division of Blind Services, which gives $9,000 per teen.

Ross said she's enjoyed watching the teens evolve. To her, she sees
potential every time a teen shows excitement about learning.

Just last week, the teens hosted their annual fundraising event where
they served ice cream at Bruster's Real Ice Cream on Tharpe Street.
They staffed the sliding-door windows and greeted customers.

Ross said the fund raiser was an example of how the teens are capable
of working together and showcasing their talents. "I want them to know
they can get a job and be productive like anyone else," Ross said.

Arrington, who plans to attend Trinity College in New Port Richey,
said she wants to be a youth pastor. She feels more capable than ever
to pursue her dream and go away to college thanks to the program.
Arrington appreciates the lessons on budgeting and learning how to be
more mobile. Despite her visual limitations, she said wants more than
anything to be treated with dignity. "I don't want to be babied,"
Arrington said. "It's a balance in helping and not helping."
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