Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

March 1, 2005 > A Vision for the Future - California School for the Blind

A Vision for the Future - California School for the Blind

by Nitasha Sharma

The California School for the Blind in Fremont is home to about 60 students, ages three to 21, who live in the three on-campus dormitories, and many more who attend the school during the day. Although the school is based in Fremont, a great majority of the students are from other areas. In order to be eligible to board at the school, a student must live at least a one-hour drive away from Fremont. This adds diversity to the school, which boasts students from all over California. "We are the only State Blind School in the State of California," said LaVernya K. Carr, director of Transition Services.

After students submit applications to the school, staff members are sent to observe the students in their school district. If there are simple changes that can be made to accommodate a visually impaired student within their own school district, those changes are generally made through the IEP (Individualized Education Program) process, and the student remains within the district. However, if the program at the student's home district cannot accommodate the student's needs, the California School for the Blind accepts him or her for a 50-day evaluation. Upon satisfactory completion of the assessment, the student is welcomed as a member of the California School for the Blind student body.

The school's staff members create a positive learning environment, building a sense of independence in each of the students. The Transition Students are sent home with a resume, said Carr.

Students are encouraged to be artistic and express themselves. Many become so self-reliant, that they are able to hold jobs at local businesses from pizza restaurants and bowling alleys to the Department of Motor Vehicles. They detail cars, do laundry, and play much appreciated music for residents of local retirement homes.

The school's goal is to allow students with visual impairments to live healthy and independent lives; to balance checkbooks, account for money, shop for groceries, cross the street safely and live on their own in campus apartments. These aspiring students easily master tasks such as washing dishes, doing laundry, and vacuuming - tasks that are near impossible for the ordinary teenager.

Students also attend physical education classes where they swim, roller-skate and work out. Many of the older students are enrolled in Adaptive Physical Education Programs which include visits to Golfland and activities that include bowling, ice-skating, hiking and even rock climbing. If they feel like flexing their muscles, they can often be found at the local 24 Hour Fitness.

Carr emphasized the importance of these programs in bringing families of visually impaired students closer to each other. "We choose those kinds of things, because those are things that families do."

Four students who attend the school, Carrie, Robbie, Bill, and Paul, students in the Apartment Living Program, all agree that the school is a great asset to the community. "The programs help people become more independent," said Carrie, 21.

Students learn to read either brail or large print, type on computers, and even clean their rooms and cook. Bill, 20, said, "Cooking helps visually impaired people feel... more confident."

The school works to make students self-sufficient in every way, including economically. Paul, 18, works detailing at a local garage.

Robbie, 17, has great dreams for the future. He wants to go to college and pursue a job in the massage therapy. I just have an interest in massage therapy, he said.

For more information about this school, the programs it has to offer, or how to enroll, contact The California School for the Blind at (510) 794-3800 or visit http://www.csb-cde.ca.gov. The campus is located at 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont.

 
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