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Youth Services

Vista Voyagers Youth Program

Youth of Tomorrow Transition Program

School Programs

Vista Voyagers  logo, "Embrace, Embark, Explore"

Vista Center Youth Group and Family Activities programs are getting a makeover as the Vista Voyagers Program! 

Experience Your World - Embrace Who You Are 
Embark on Life with Confidence

Join Vista Voyagers on these FREE 2019 youth events:

April 28th, Cane Quest

First ever Northern California Regional Cane Quest Competition! Sponsored by Braille Institute.

Contact Bethany Small at bsmall@vistacenter.org or (650) 858-0202 x 183 for info & to RSVP.

Youth Program Permission form

Adult Permission form

Listen to Vista Center Director of Youth Services Bethany Small talk about the Vista Voyagers program here:

Vista Voyagers supports developmental growth for youth through the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), nine areas where children with visual impairments require specialized opportunities in order to compensate for the lack of learning by observing others.

The ECC encompasses:

Children who are visually impaired require direct hands-on experience to fully grasp concepts not integrated in their daily lives such as feeling snow and sand, cooking, exploring how animals come in different shapes, sizes and textures, or participating in a sport that requires teamwork. Students are encouraged to develop independence by utilizing their orientation and mobility skills to navigate routes, learning and mastering assistive technology skills to read instructions, and practicing functional academics embedded into the lessons such as measurements or reading braille.

The goal of Vista Voyagers is for each child to develop into independent, well-rounded, and successful adults who contribute to society. These events also enable families to network with each other. The opportunities that Vista Voyagers offer will empower our visually impaired youths to strive for independence and look towards their future with motivation and excitement!
For more information, please contact Bethany Small at 650-858-0202 ext 183

Previous Youth Program Events

Voyagers at Google

It has been a very busy month! On July 29th, 2019, thirteen voyagers had the unique opportunity to return to Google for a chance to become more acquainted with the Google Accessibility Team. 

Group photo of Vista Voyagers with Google Accessibility Team members“It is important to share not only one’s successes, but how often I failed beforehand.” A Googler who also had a visual impairment shared with the youth. “You can’t give up even if you fail. You try again and if that still doesn’t work, ask for help.” Another Googler with a visual impairment chimed in adding to the message of personal initiative, “You are the best self-advocate, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.” In addition to speaking on persistence and growing from failure, students heard how Google supported their accessibility needs, how they traveled to and from work, and how they disclose their visual impairments to potential employers. Meeting these Googlers and learning their stories not only normalized the concept of a successful career, but showed students that they are not alone in their day to day struggles.  

Later students paired with Googlers to work in a more intimate setting, trialing the Google apps Lookout and Lens, providing product feedback or ideas, and peppering the Googlers with questions to quell their endless curiosity. Voyagers also enjoyed chatting with Googlers over a scrumptious lunch and trying out the famous Google bikes. It was a day to be remembered for years to come and played a significant role in the development of our youth. 

Expanded Core Curriculum skills Developed:

  1. Social interactions: Students engaged with Googlers in multiple settings including asking thoughtful questions in a thirty person conference room, conversing professionally in an interview format, and chatting casually in the cafeteria. Each of these settings enabled the students to practice positive social interactions and develop this vital skill set as they move towards an independent adulthood.  
  2. Career education exposure: Meeting Googlers not only with different disabilities, but from all over the world broadened the students minds to the possibility of what career paths are available and to the idea they could work anywhere in the world! Students learned valuable insight on work transportation, job applications, and company accessibility support. 
  3. Self-determination development: Voyager students utilized their critical thinking skills as they evaluated Google products and provided their feedback. 
  4. Assistive Technology: Additional training was provided on the Google app Lookout, an app which recognizes objects in the area and verbally identifies what the object is and where it is located. 

 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/K6wYA3JEj1GUXZmY8

Voyagers Family Night Recap and Pictures

Several Vista Voyagers on large rope cobwebb structureFriendly snakes, a smiling tortoise, fox skulls, hawk wings, connective playgrounds, and so much more! The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo visit on July 25th was full of insightful learning experiences presented in an accessible format to stimulate learning by touch and sound instead of vision. It was a refreshing experience for our students and families to be so readily integrated and welcomed by the museum staff. The Voyagers’ smiles and laughter as they measured the length of a snake against the length of their leg or heard the hoot of a barn owl were priceless! A big thank you to the Palo Alto Jr Museum and Zoo staff for opening their doors just for us! 

Expanded Core Curriculum skills Developed:

  1. Compensatory Skills: The unique exhibits provided hands-on concept development of several animals including snakes, tortoises, birds, and lizards; as well as common science principles such as cause and effect, physics, and problem solving skills. There were even braille labels and descriptions for the exhibits! 
  2. Self-determination development: Students were brave enough to experience the size and feel of various reptiles, explore animal skulls, and bird wings/feathers. They played with a multitude of science exhibits creating mini flying paperclip helicopters, sculpting magnetic sand, and chasing ping pong balls as it moved through a cardboard roller-coaster. Without this hands on exploration, students would not fully grasp these vital life concepts which are so commonly referred to in everyday life. 
  3. Assistive Technology: Most exhibits offered a QR code which the students could scan with their phone and listen to the exhibit description. What a fun way to incorporate learning and technology! 

Social interactions: The students interacted with new and old friends as well as adults. They happily chatted with each other while munching on pizza, waiting to pet a lizard, or playing with a museum exhibit. 

Pictures: 
https://photos.app.goo.gl/HMPe3bnhvuT75g7CA

Voyagers Behind the Scenes at Google Recap and Photos

Vista Voyagers Group photo at GoogleSixteen Voyagers were awestruck as they walked onto Google’s campus and were greeted with refreshing boba tea, snacks, and excited Google employees. They quickly warmed up and began peppering the Google team with questions on accessibility apps, sharing product feedback, and responding to personal career stories.

Vista Voyagers seated at a Google large conference room table The students product tested a Google accessibility app called Lookout which identifies, reads, and locates text or objects. The Voyagers had a multitude of product suggestions and ideas which were quickly jotted down for further consideration. After the demos two Googlers who were blind and visually impaired shared their personal journeys of how they obtained jobs at Google, including describing their own occurrences with inaccessible materials, high school and college experiences, and concluding with a message of perseverance, determination, and self-advocacy. The Voyagers were then shuttled to a Google Cafe where they happily chatted with Googlers and friends as they munched on a fresh hot meal of their choice.

Expanded Core Curriculum skills Developed:

  1. Assistive Technology: Through the immersion lab students learned about and utilized several new accessibility apps which will increase their independence as they move throughout society.  
  2. Career education exposure: Googlers with and without visual impairments shared their personal career stories highlighting the need for tenacity and problem solving skills.
  3. Social interactions: Voyagers were exposed to conversation on a professional level in a conference room like setting and a relaxed environment during dinner where they mingled freely. Learning how to navigate and understand the difference between these two settings is a vital skill set which will be utilized in future careers.
  4. Self-determination development: “Any questions?” A Google employee asked after sharing his story. An awkward silence filled the room for one beat, two beats before a student tentatively raised her hand. This is an example of how students overcome insecurities speaking in front of a large group of people, asking questions and sharing observations with business professionals and peers. Participating in a large group discussion is challenging for anyone, and especially so if one cannot see the visual social cues transpiring throughout the room.   

A very special thank you to the Google team who put this experience together!  The apps discussed, Google’s accessibility blog, and event photos are below.

Apps discussed: Lookout, Lens, Accessibility Scanner

Google’s accessibility blog:
https://www.blog.google/outreach-initiatives/accessibility/

https://photos.app.goo.gl/x4WRmrBgZGE1ACU77 

Voyagers and Shared Paths Cinco de Mayo!

Group photo of Shared Paths and Vista Voyagers participantsShared Paths joined The Voyagers for a special Cinco de Mayo celebration last week. Young adults mingled with adults over tasty tacos and shared their excitement, fears, and questions on transitioning to adulthood. Students discussed how they are looking forward to increased freedom, independence and enhancing understanding of themselves. They raised concerns regarding traveling safely through unknown neighborhoods, crossing large streets, paying taxes, and wondering how they are going to cook for themselves. The Shared Paths adults responded with an outpouring of support and advice by giving examples from their personal experience, instances when they felt exactly the same and how they overcame each obstacle together with their friends from Vista Center. Valerie, Director of Adult Services, spoke about what programs are available and how the young adults can become involved. Shared Paths echoed Valerie by offering examples of what programs they found most beneficial to their growth as individuals without sight. It was an afternoon filled with personal vulnerability, growth, and newfound friendships as Voyager young adults begin their next journey into adulthood.

Expanded Core Curriculum skills Developed:

  1. Social interactions: Students had the opportunity to socialize as young adults with other adults, without their parents present. This is a rare and novel opportunity as they are taking their first steps away from high school and into society.
  2. Recreation and leisure skills: Adult Vista programs were shared such as hiking, martial arts, yoga, and how to become involved.
  3. Career education exposure: Adults with visual impairments shared about themselves and what they do for a living.

      4. Self-determination development: Students opened up and shared about personal growth, fears, and excitement in transitioning              to adulthood. They were able to speak in a safe space and relate with adults who were present.

2019 Voyagers Ski Weekend

The Vista Voyagers spent the entire weekend in Bear Valley cross country skiing and playing in the snow! A first for many, students quickly picked up the sport and were soon tackling hills in a quest for more speed. Other students switched to snowshoes and had a blast tramping through deep snow or chucking snowballs at unsuspecting friends. Big Trees wowed everyone with the largest trees in the world and students had a hands on experience at the Visitor Center where they explored animal pelts, bird calls, and even bear poop!

One student who recently lost his sight summed up the trip, “My favorite part about the trip was being able to ski, before the trip it was really hard for me to imagine being able to ski like I did before I lost my sight. Being out there and actually skiing like I used to, it was actually quite amazing.”  

Expanded Core Curriculum skills Developed:

  1. Safe travel techniques: We traveled all over on all sorts of unusual terrain, the most nuance of which was snow! Students discovered how to balance in the snow, traveling up and down hills while wearing new footwear such as ski boots, skis, or snowshoes.
  2. Social interactions: There was an abundance of social bonding this weekend! We played endless icebreakers in the seeming never ending car rides, allowing the students to express their personalities and interests as they got to know each other better. Some students met other students with visual impairments for the first time, realizing they are not alone in their disability and assisting them to accept their visual impairment.  
  3. Independent living techniques: Every student helped with cooking, house chores, self-care, and cared for their own ski equipment, so parents don’t be afraid to let them help you out around the house!
  4. Recreation and leisure skills: We participated in harrowing snowball fights, glided across cross country ski trails, played a vigorous game of braille uno, stretched our minds with car memorization games, and built smiling snowman. All just a taste of snow leisure activities available to our students.
  5. Career education exposure: The trip consisted of ETC guides with various career backgrounds, a Google software engineer, an O&M guide, and guide with a visual impairment. Students chatted with the adults about their career paths asking questions on how they could follow in their footsteps one day.
  6. Sensory efficiency skills: “Wow, my echolocation skills are completely different when wearing all this winter gear!” A student exclaimed after stepping outside all decked out for winter. Students utilized all their senses traveling through the silence of snow.
  7. Self-determination development: For nearly all 11 students this was their first time on skis or even their first time in snow! They demonstrated impressive resilience by snapping on those skis and giving a new sport a try even when they were nervous!
  8. Compensatory skills: Braille was incorporated into the trip thanks to ETC providing braille uno cards and braille reading sheets at Big Trees.
  9. Technology: Students utilized their phone screen readers and camera magnification apps to access the world around them throughout the trip. 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TL3wPU4W51ZGhNcR6 

 

Voyagers Imagination Station, A Day with Clay

The Voyagers know how to get creative! The Playful Critters, ages 5 - 10, created a sleek sea turtle and the Undercover Creators, ages 11 to 15, crafted their very own drinking mug. The Playful Critters worked jointly with their parents enjoying some quality time together while the Undercover Creators worked independently chatting with each other, the instructor Angel, and our New Visions of Tomorrow volunteers.    

Expanded Core Curriculum skills Developed:
1.    Social interactions: Younger students spent quality one-on-one time with their parents working together to shape and paint the turtles. Several students were reunited with friends they hadn’t seen since preschool, and students who were shy or new to the group were soon chatting happily away about their project ideas.
2.    Independent living techniques: Students practiced listening and Smiling participant showing off his clay creation following directions.
3.    Recreation and leisure skills: Students had the opportunity to craft, shape, and paint a clay figure, art exposure.
4.    Career education exposure: Students were exposed to an art instructor who was also visually impaired.
5.    Self-determination development: Students learned a new skill and expressed their own creative techniques. When confused students were encouraged to self-advocate by asking for help. Students overcame tactile defensiveness by digging, rolling, and manipulating the clay.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Ksft1F6zKiYazSUg7

 

Amusement Park TripVista Voyagers Group Photo at Great America
Vista Voyagers had an outstanding day at Great America’s Great Pumpkin Patch!
Expanded Core Curriculum skills Developed:
Safe travel techniques: Our students safely navigate the crowded walkways and lines of Great America. A fitness trackers logged we walked nearly 3 miles! Students practiced using their canes, guide dogs, and human guides.
Social interactions: The students interacted with new and old friends and adults. They happily chatted with each other while waiting in line, at lunch, and on the rides.
Independent living techniques: Students used the maps to navigate the park, learned how to buckle and unbuckle themselves in rides, and pay for their meals.
Recreation and leisure skills: Students experienced the wonders of an amusement park.
Career education exposure: Students were exposed to line attendants, food cashiers, and costume actors.
Sensory efficiency skills: All senses were put on supercharge as the kids felt the dips, flips, and drops of speeding rides!
Self-determination development: Many students challenged themselves putting aside their fears and rode roller coasters which were new to them. Other students stepped up to the plate and joined groups with peers they had never met before.
Assistive Technology: Student’s used adapted phone settings to remain in contact with their parents.

Check out this link to see the smiles on our students’ faces as they explored the wonders of the park. 

Vista Voyagers Kayaking Trip Video
Expanded Core Curriculum Development Skills in Action

Self Defense

Our students received instruction in community safety, being aware of their environment, knowing how to get help, and strategies for avoiding trouble and fending off attacks.

Surfing

Always popular, Ride-A-Wave, a non-profit organization composed largely of volunteer firefighters and police officers who enjoy surfing, spent a day with our students, teaching them to surf.

Kayaking

Youth Group Kayak trip to Angel Island

With some help from Environmental Traveling Companions youth group members have received instruction in kayaking and paddled around Tomales Bay, hiked, socialized, spent the night in tents they erected, cooked dinner, told campfire stories and challenged themselves.

 

 

Holiday Ice Skating PartyFive skaters in a row at the ice skating party

Following two hours of ice-skating, our youth group and their families enjoyed food, music, games, contests, crafts, karaoke, and Santa.

 

 

A Night at the Museum  

Our students spent the afternoon at a local museum and, once the museum closed, brought in their sleeping bags and spent a fun night camping out among the exhibits. 

Described Play

Wearing headsets, our students attended a major theatrical production while listening to a narrated description of the action on the stage.

Winter Holiday Party

Our youth group members and their families enjoyedDancing at the Holiday Party music, entertainment, dancing, karaoke, games, arts and crafts, good company, and truly good food.  This annual event provides an excellent opportunity for Youth Group members, families and friends, grandparents, teachers, prospective Youth Group members, volunteers, and anyone interested in Vista Center to meet and have fun.

Overnights

Overnight events are an especially fun way for our students to spend time together.  We have kayaked to Angel Island and then set up camp, and we have also slept in a zoo, in a decommissioned submarine, and near the beach in Santa Cruz.

Braille Challenge

Vista Center is pleased to be a host of the Northern California Regional Braille Challenge.  The Braille Challenge is a celebration of braille literacy in the form of a contest among blind school children.  The contestants are public and private school students in grades one through twelve.  

 

Divided into five groups based on reading level, the students engage in a fun day of braille challenges that include writing, reading comprehension, chart and graph reading, spelling, proofreading, and word search.  Each participant in the Braille Challenge is a winner and receives an award of achievement.  The students who achieve the highest scores in each reading level receive prizes and an invitation to participate in the national championship.

This short video clip is of seniors during a timed event where participants are scored on speed and accuracy.

Please note this video is not sped up. They are really that fast!

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Youth of Tomorrow
Building Confidence to Live IndependentlyCartoon image of two people, one with a white cane
       

                                                        
Youth of Tomorrow meets with students ages 14-24 to discuss various aspects of transitioning to adulthood focusing on career exploration and independent living. It consists of workshops and outings to help students problem solve and gain the tools necessary to navigate the world with confidence.

Topics include:

When I Grow Up is a mentoring program and will also be a focus of this program. If you are blind or visually impaired and you are open to mentoring a student via job shadowing please contact Amy to sign up.

For more information and to RSVP contact Amy Jine at 415-886-7049 or email her at ajine@vistacenter.org

 

Visit our Photo Album on Flickr