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Summer 2003 Table of Contents
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Post Secondary Program TSBVI/TCB

By Sofia Bocanegra, Crystal Davenport, Whitney Lawson and William Sparks

Editor's Note: The Post Secondary Program began in the fall of 2002. The focus of the program is to provide training for students who are blind or visually impaired and have graduated from high school or achieved equivalent certificate. Students seeking this post-secondary experience are in need of remedial academic, independent living and work related skills training. They will cultivate the skills, attitudes and opportunities necessary to meet the demands of competitive employment and adult living. For more information, visit www.tsbvi.edu/school/psp/ or contact Sherry Hayes at (512) 374-1664 or e-mail: sherryhayes@tsbvi.edu.

If you know a young person who is graduating from high school soon and is eager to experience independence, we have a new program to consider. We have been the first to pilot the Post Secondary Program (PSP), which is a collaborative effort between the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) (TCB). Our quadriplex is located directly across the street from Criss Cole Rehab Center (CCRC) and slightly north of the main TSBVI campus. Both campuses are within walking distance. We are all very enthusiastic as we are about to complete the first year of the program, and would like to tell you about it. We are Sofia Bocanegra from Garden City, Crystal Davenport, of Houston, Whitney Lawson, from Blanco, and William Sparks, who hails from San Antonio. Two of us entered the program in September, 2002 and the other two joined us in late October. The program is to last approximately one year.

When we arrived, we were nervous but eager to get started. In the beginning it was very hectic! We had to move into brand new apartments, do our first grocery shopping trip and get oriented to the new surroundings. We also had to attend lots of orientation meetings, both at CCRC and the Post-Secondary complex. The complex contains four apartments surrounding a central common room that holds the laundry facilities and the office for the coordinator and assistant. The apartments are small and efficient for single living. All units are accessible, but one is specifically designed with an adapted kitchen and bath for wheelchair use. The apartments are furnished and the kitchens are fully equipped. An important part of our training takes place in our own apartments. During the evenings and on weekends, we receive instruction from the PSP coordinator and residential assistant in the skills needed to live independently, such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting, paying rent, learning about deposits and setting up our own utilities, as well as figuring out how to access leisure activities of interest to us in the community.

We attend classes at CCRC and TSBVI. We have taken courses at CCRC in basic blindness skills including Kitchen, Braille, Keyboarding, O&M, Personal Finance and Organization, Technology, and Career Guidance. These classes are self-paced and the students are required to wear blindfolds while in training at Criss Cole Rehab Center. In classes at TSBVI or while in our apartments, blindfolds are optional. "Wearing a blindfold can be a real pain, especially in the summer when it's hot," says Crystal "but it has helped me to use my other senses more, instead of relying entirely on my vision."

In kitchen class, we started off with learning how to use talking calculators, clocks, and watches. We also learned to organize money and shop without using vision. Then, it was on to cooking. "When I first started the program I didn't know how to do much of anything," says William. "The microwave and Hilbert's Hamburgers were my best friends." We all helped our families prepare Thanksgiving dinners in November after being in the program for just a few months. Cooking skills are practiced and reinforced in our apartments as we are responsible for preparing food for ourselves and required to have at least one dinner party with guests.

What any student works on in Braille class depends on what he/she already knows. Beginners like Crystal and Sofia start by learning the alphabet. After that, we proceed into contractions, while advanced braille students like William and Whitney have practiced reading and writing to build up speed and accuracy.

Keyboarding is the first computer class we take. We are required to use earphones and follow instructions on a tape to practice typing. At first, this was very hard to do. Before we complete this class, we must be typing at least 20 words per minute. Then, we have the choice to go into a Windows class or an internet or Microsoft word class.

Says Sofia, "O & M is a very challenging class where you really have to concentrate on what you are doing." During O & M training, we work indoors as well as outdoors. We learn how to use a cane, cross busy and quiet streets, ask for information, and use the Capital Metro bus system. We are required to use a cane at all times even if we have some vision.

Our Career Guidance class covers everything from jobs to owning a home. "I like the class because I always leave there thinking about things that I never thought about until now," says Crystal. The course is tailored to fit each individual's needs and interests. Since Sofia is interested in pursuing a career in the office/clerical field, her Career Guidance class has included some valuable on-the-job training on the switchboard at CCRC.

Another required class is Personal Finance and Organization (PF&O). The class begins with learning to label different items in Braille. Once this is completed, we move on to making an address book. Then, we begin more advanced training which consists of setting up a file box for storing important documents and learning to keep a check register. Our academic tutorials provide extra practice in these skills and include, among other things, learning to pay bills on-line.

During academic tutorials which we attend daily, we are not required to wear blindfolds. In the very beginning, we were assessed, using the ACT Work Keys assessment. It covers a variety of skills such as Math, Writing, Reading Comprehension, and Listening. Once the assessment was completed, we identified areas of need based on industry standards for jobs in which we were interested. We work each day to improve on those skills that fit our personal goals. Whitney says, "One of my goals is to prepare for the TASP so I can go to college in the fall. I'm doing this in the academic tutorial class. I've also gotten to fill out an admission application for Austin Community College and work closely with their Office for Students with Disabilities." Sofia is working on listening and taking notes so that she will have stronger skills as she seeks a job in the office/clerical field.

"I have learned a lot of things in this program," says Crystal. "I have learned all of uncontracted braille, how to write checks, and how to ride the buses. I am also cooking much more than I used to."

Sofia adds, "I believe that this program has really helped me learn new things, have more confidence and be able to ask questions. I have also learned to be away from my family and to be independent."

"I didn't know how to pay bills or give myself shots. Thanks to the Post-Secondary Program, I now have the confidence, competence, and independence I need for higher learning," says William.

All of us agree that the Post-Secondary Program is a very beneficial program for anyone who is college bound or seeking work after high school. It offers the right amount of independent living experience as well as training based on individual future goals. We are unanimous in saying that being on our own in an apartment is truly awesome! We have really enjoyed the time spent in the program, and we have even adopted a motto based on our new competencies and skills: "Post-Secondary lead the way! All the way!"

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Last Revision: August 19, 2003