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Kathi Garza, Family Engagement Coordinator, TSBVI Outreach Program

 

Abstract: This article, compiled by a former Summer Programs Coordinator, provides information about Summer Programs 2019 at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Parents and students offer insight into the impact of their experience(s) with Summer Programs.

 

Keywords: TSBVI, Summer Programs, summer, parents, ECC, Expanded Core Curriculum, testimonial

 

What are some thoughts that come to mind when you think about summer programs or summer camp for your children? When considering Summer Programs at TSBVI, some families wonder about inclusivity, safety, meals, and homesickness. Other families wonder about the activities. Will they be enriching, engaging, adapted to my child’s needs? During my time as a Summer Programs Coordinator, it was no secret around campus that summer is my favorite time of the year simply because of the energy and engagement that Summer Programs brings.

 

This past summer, TSBVI served 177 students in five different programs. From work programs and a PE class for credit to programs focusing on enrichment and exploration of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), students of all ages conquered new challenges, experienced new activities, and forged new friendships.

 

Here’s what some of our great students and families had to say about TSBVI Summer Programs 2019:

 

“I am one of the biggest Momma Bears when it comes to my daughter, Ally. Thinking about letting her go to camp for a WEEK and 6 hours away was a BIG “NO” the first year we heard about the camp. How could I leave my tiny, low vision child for a week without her momma? The second year came around, and I was going to be in the area for school myself, so we decided to let her go. After visiting the facilities and seeing how organized it was the day of drop off, I felt so much better about leaving her. The school has registration down to a science. Everyone was so welcoming and helpful. I was scared about her leaving campus for activities, but I felt like she would be taken care of by the staff I met. The dorms appeared very secure. On the day of pick up, Ally was so excited about her experience that she didn’t want to leave. She couldn’t stop talking about the places she went and the things she learned to help her live independently in a world she has trouble seeing. Ally met some great friends, exchanged phone numbers, and they still communicate today. I wouldn’t hesitate to send her back!”—Chaz Baker, Parent

 

“TSBVI summer programs is something I look forward to every year! They have fantastic activities that are so fun, but it's not really about that for me. It is more about the amazing community you experience there. Unlike my school, when I am at TSBVI everyone relates to you and you feel like you truly belong.”—Sarah Menefee, High School Student

 

Two girls ride the city bus. One student is wearing glasses and carrying a water bottle. The other student is wearing a hat and has her long white cane with a pink grip.

Caption: Ally and Sarah ride the city bus for an off-campus outing during Summer Programs 2019.

 

“Sarah has participated in TSBVI summer programs since the summer before 6th grade. It is a safe, supportive community where she feels like she fits in. She always comes home having learned new skills as well as a BIG boost in confidence.”—Nickie Menefee, Parent

 

“As a parent, I feel that it’s very important for a visually impaired child to get the opportunity to interact with other children his own age who have similar challenges. It’s also important for them to be able to learn how to be independent and take care of themselves and their belongings when away from home and parents. TSBVI provides an ideal environment for this to happen. I feel that we are very fortunate to have such a school available to us. My child, Mustafa, has definitely benefited from his experiences during summer camp at TSBVI.”—Fehmida Vejlani, Parent

 

A boy and his teacher lean over the bowling ball return to pick up a blue bowling ball.

Caption: Drody and his teacher grab a bowling ball for his upcoming turn. He won the game!

 

“Our son Drody has been attending TSBVI summer programs for the past few years. Drody attends as a day student for the week long summer camp program where he learns daily living skills, practices traveling with his cane, and participates in social activities. Drody enjoys going to Summer Programs for the week. He meets new friends every year and enjoys getting to know the teachers and staff. They take him to shop in grocery stores where he learns how to pick out items & place them at checkout counter, bowl with friends, ride the metro train into town, eat out in restaurants, and go to the pool for swimming. Drody also gets to make lots of crafts and participate in activities in the classroom. Music class is another fun activity he enjoys while at TSBVI! Drody looks forward to going every summer to make new friends and experience new activities. Our son has some medical needs, and the Health Center staff on campus is excellent in providing his medicine on schedule while being adequately prepared for emergencies. Everyone knows the sensory issues involved with Drody’s eating and is professional in their treatment of him during meal times! TSBVI Summer Programs is a great place to go where the school and staff are well trained and familiar with the issues we go through on a daily basis!”—Jackie and Mitchel Pitre, Parents

 

A boy sits in front of a blender containing a partially blended smoothie. His fingers are on the buttons of the blender, and he is smiling.

Caption: Drody uses a blender to make himself a smoothie.

 

“TSBVI summer programs forever changed how we view summer! It's a time for Mila to look forward to camp, just like our other child. They both go to the most fun camps where they try new things, meet life-long friends, stay up late bonding with peers, and develop the skills needed to be away from home. TSBVI has provided us with a wonderfully planned camp, with first class staff trained to help our visually impaired child. We feel Mila is not only thriving and extremely happy, but incredibly safe with the staff and medical personnel ready to assist at any point. Mila has met her closest friends through TSBVI summer programs, which provides us with year-round play dates and other parents to share any joys or concerns with. Above all, we have gained further involvement with other TSBVI programs that help our daughter as we navigate her school years. We are forever grateful.”—Shelley Berger, Parent

 

A girl with long hair and pink glasses sits at a table scooping lotion into a bowl. To her right is the braille recipe she’s using to make soap.

Caption: Mila mixes the ingredients to make soap.

 

“Summer camp is really fun because I get to see all my Braille friends. I really like the rec center because that's where we do talent shows and play games. We also get snow cones at special events! I like spending the night at the dorm because it feels like my home, except I have a roommate, so it feels like a sleepover!”—Mila Berger, Elementary Student

 

“We adopted our son several years ago from China. He had received no vision services at all. He is legally blind and hadn’t had access to glasses, optical devices, a cane, or anything else. That was in 2014. Joseph was able to attend Summer Programs in 2019 after showing the ability to voice his feelings, concerns, and be a self-advocate. Initially, I was concerned about whether he would be ready for a camp away from home. Would he do well without me around? I suspected he would be fine, but the moment I met TSBVI staff, I was sure he would be fine. I could not have been more pleased and assured that our son was safe and in capable hands. Joseph attended camp where he was able to make food, meet friends, and come away feeling confident. In fact, Joseph had such a wonderful time that he would love to attend the school full time. The classroom environment was so conducive to learning. Joseph showed his art projects to everyone and greeted his teachers and staff enthusiastically. Joseph was a little nervous at first, but by the end of the program, he was familiar with the campus and could show us where to go. His favorite part of the program was learning about the eye, especially the optic nerve. He had a great time with his roommate, telling stories and laughing together. The whole experience left me feeling encouraged and excited to see if we make the list for next summer.”—Casey Powers, Parent

 

A young boy and a staff member sit at a table with an iPad in front of him. He is looking up at a black drone hovering above him. 

Caption: Joseph uses a coding app on the iPad to fly a drone during Summer Programs.

 

If you are considering referring your student to Summer Programs, here are some things to remember.

  • If you’re curious about the TSBVI campus, we are happy to take you and your family on a tour of our campus and the areas specific to Summer Programs. Please reach out to Sara Merritt, Principal of Short-Term Programs (), or Kathi Garza (), Family Engagement Coordinator, for more information and scheduling.
  • Summer Programs serves students who are blind, visually impaired, DeafBlind, and those who may have additional disabilities.
  • Applications for Summer Programs will open on the TSBVI website in January of each year. The deadline for applications to be received for consideration is February 14th.
  • Students who attend Summer Programs typically stay in the dorm to participate in residential programming with peers, but we do consider applicants who wish to only participate as day-students.
  • During Summer Programs, parents are expected to provide transportation for their children to and from TSBVI.