Summer Academy readies Pennsylvania’s students with disabilities for the workforce

Pennsylvania Students with Visual Impairments Learn Independent Living Skills at Penn State

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) has been offering an incredible opportunity for students who are blind or visually impaired to learn independent-living skills at Penn State. This Summer Academy has been running since 2009 and has served over 325 students since 2014.

The program aims to equip these students with the skills they need to succeed in post-secondary education and competitive integrated employment. From mobility skills with a white cane to career planning and assistive technology, the academy provides a holistic approach to preparing these young individuals for the future.

What’s even more impressive is that there is no cost to students or their families for participation in the academy, as it is funded through federal pre-employment transition funds. This ensures that all students have the opportunity to benefit from this immersive experience, including living in a college dorm, eating in a dining hall, and participating in a variety of activities.

One of the unique aspects of this program is the involvement of college students with human services-related majors who serve as Resident Assistants (RAs), supporting the participants and ensuring a positive experience for all. It’s inspiring to see the impact of these summer academies not only on the students but also on the RAs, some of whom have gone on to work for the Department after graduation.

Overall, the Summer Academy for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired is a shining example of government initiatives making a real difference in the lives of Pennsylvania families. By providing the tools and support needed for these students to succeed, the program is setting them up for a bright future filled with opportunities.

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