Graduation Picture of Transition Participants

Summer Transition Academy Volunteer & Graduation Day

On Tuesday, July 25, 2017, the Transition Academy was hosted by MUST Ministries’ Marietta location.   Founded in 1971 by the Rev. Wayne Williams, MUST “…addresses the basic needs of individuals, families and children with facilities in the Cobb and Cherokee counties and programs in numerous other counties.”  MUST’s mission is “Serving our neighbors in need… transforming lives and communities in response to Christ’s call.”  Being a volunteer-driven organization, the Transition Academy was able to volunteer while simultaneously learning about job tasks, running a non-profit organization, meeting deadlines, and much more.  It was a great way to end the summer academy and a wonderful location to hold the Transition Academy Graduation.

From left to right, Chuck,Kelly,Aleayah, and Francis from MUST

MUST Program Team – Chuck, Kelly, Aleayah, and Francis

The morning kicked off with the members of the Transition Academy introducing themselves to our hosts (the Program Team), by giving a brief spontaneous Eye Statement to describe how their visual impairment works.   For instance, Alsu explained to the Program Team that having Septo-optic dysplasia, means that she sees best in dimly lit environments.   Afterwards, the Program Team responded to our introductions by telling the TA participants about the history of MUST Ministries, before outlining some of their own daily job duties.

Kelly supervises the people who work at MUST Ministries as part of their community service.   Usually, Kelly and her team handle the janitorial and house-keeping tasks for MUST Ministries, but they also keep the food pantry stocked.  Chuck oversees the Thrift Store, which provides a source of revenue for all of MUST Ministries’ programs.  Francis, the program director, shared MUST Ministries is a 46-year-old faith-based organization, whose mission is to serve their neighbors in need by providing both impoverished families and individuals with the goods and services they need.

The Transition Academy group broke into several small teams to aid the employees of MUST Ministries by stocking the shelves, handing out food in the pantry, and organizing the Thrift Store (among other things).   For example, Brittany, Ayesha, and Skylar took turns steaming the children’s clothes and hanging them on a cart.   Then, after the clothes had been steamed, Maggie and Gabby would take the cart to the thrift store.   At the thrift store, Chuck showed them how to organize the clothes, for ease of shopper,s based on gender and size from infant through adult.  Many volunteer hours are helpful in the store to keep it organized and stocked.

Josh Marks

Josh Marks

Josh Marks was interviewed for this week’s Transition Academy blog post.   Josh is currently a rising Junior at Lassiter High School, in Marietta, Georgia.   Josh’s preferred method of learning is through using a combination of audio and visual sensory input.    After graduating high school, Josh hopes to major in Sports Medicine at Kennesaw State University.   This would be an ideal situation, because one of Josh’s main interests is playing baseball.

Graduation Ceremony Ayesha, Gabby, , Cheylah, Alsu, Xavier, Jason, William, Rafa, and Gus

Graduation Ceremony Ayesha, Gabby, , Cheylah, Alsu, Xavier, Jason, William, Rafa, and Gus

Later, in honor of our final class, the Transition Academy volunteers and members had a graduation celebration complete with cake! Each student also received a graduation certificate to signify that they had successfully completed the course.

The afternoon was spent rotating through additional work stations.   TA participants unpacked donated work shirts, re-stacked donation boxes, re-stocked the food pantry and unloaded donations for the MUST summer lunch program.   In addition, a small group met with Linda Newman, past VRS Board Chair, to discuss strategies for preparing for the Math part of the SAT.   VRS is planning to host monthly test prep classes should program participants need additional support in this area.

During the last few minutes of our visit to MUST Ministries, the Program Team thanked every member of the Transition Academy for the volunteer help they provided and the tasks they accomplished.   Feedback was shared regarding things learned by both sides.    Class members were asked to stay-tuned for Next Step Prep activities throughout the school year.   As program participants prepared to leave MUST gave everyone a Gobble Jog T-Shirt to show their appreciation for all our hard work.  A reminder was provided to the TA group that a good training 5K in order to be ready for this year’s Gobble Jog is to participate in VRS’ 9th annual Spooktacular Chase in October!

Transition Academy Visits Local Businesses in the Community

Transition Academy Visits Local Businesses in the Community

On Tuesday, July 11, 2017, the Transition Academy (“TA”) visited an assisted living & memory care community in Smyrna, Provident Village at Creekside, and a local entrepreneur’s privately-owned framing business, Annie Frame Will Do.   The goals of the visits were to understand the various jobs and career opportunities available and practice the informational interview skills taught in TA.   By visiting a corporately structured entity and a privately owned & operated business on the same day, TA participants could compare and contrast different business approaches, skill sets required, risks, time commitments and rewards.

At Provident Village, following opening remarks, each TA member introduced themselves to the staff by discussing the details of their unique eye conditions and asking informational interview questions.   Through this question and answer period students were able to find out more about how an assisted living facility is operated.

The TA spoke with Allison Mosely and Carrie Chau, who are members of Provident’s sales and marketing team.  Their job is to intFrom left to right, Carrie Chau and Allison Moselyroduce potential residents to the Provident community.   Through organized special events and personalized appointments, Allison & Carrie get potential residents and their families excited about undergoing a lifestyle change and moving into Provident Village.  According to Carrie, Provident offers seniors a wide range of services.  These include cooking/dining, housekeeping, transportation, and entertaining social activities.   A key point is the residents of Provident retain the ability to make their own decisions about what they eat and how active a life they lead.  The sole exception to this rule concerns residents in the memory care area of the community who have a history of Dementia or Alzheimer’s and move into Provident Village specifically for a secure, structured, care taking environment.

The class also met Provident Village’s business manager (Natasha) who manages the community’s budget, processes paperwork for the new residents, bills the residents, and performs human resource duties for all the employees.  Once the explanations were finished, Natasha led thefrom left to right, Natasha and Nicky TA group on a tour of the building.  We saw many exciting sights such as the residential dining rooms, the library, and an entertainment center where the residents could watcfrom left to right, Elaine Austin and Allison Moselyh movies and eat popcorn.  In addition, the executive director (Elaine Austin) showed us the memory care unit.  We did not enter this secure area as it is locked & contains many alarms to prevent patients from accidentally wandering out of the building or becoming lost.  Other staff members who shared details of their positions and what it takes to keep Provident running efficiently and effectively included Nikki at the reception desk and front door; Carla from housekeeping; Penny the Activities Director; and Asia who is one of multiple chefs.

After lunch, the TA group bid the staff of Provident goodbye and rode to visit Ann Chamblee, a local entreprenuer.   Today, Ann runs her business from the basement of her house and averages a six day per week, ten-hour work day.   However, she used to be a business manager for the army.  While working for the army in Texas, Ann ran an arts and crafts center where she fell in love with framing.  So, after moving to Georgia, Ann started a business of her own, Annie Frame Will Do.Ann the owner of Annie Frame Will Do

Ann was very forthcoming with information when asked about how she creates frames, stocks inventory, and gains business.  She shared details about tracking the business expenses, planning for meeting deadlines, and how to create pricing structures.  The take away was the fact there is a lot to do when running your own business.

Ann’s business specializes in picture framing and framTA Students holding their t-shirts from Annie Frame Will Doe repair, but she has recently begun printing t-shirts as well.   The best part of the visit for most was getting the opportunity to see Ann create our Transition Academy t-shirts in her workshop using a fabric printer, a computer, and an iron.  She utilized the TA logo designed a few weeks back at the beginning of TA.  Annie was extremely generous so as to let us have the t-shirts free of charge.
All in all, the Transition Academy had a very full day and learned a lot.  We truly appreciate the support of these two businesses and the time spent with the class.

Eating IN the Library

Food Drink and Gum: VRS Transition Academy Did It All at the Library

On Tuesday, June 27, 2017, the Transition Academy (“TA”) took a field trip to the Georgia Library for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS), located in Downtown Atlanta.  When the class first arrived, we were greeted warmly by Beverly, the manager of GLASS.  We were there to learn about services provided as well as observe and investigate various careers to consider at the library.  They allowed us to bring our coolers full of food and drinks for lunch as well as talk and laugh right there in the library.

GLASS employees (Jason, Diane and Vanessa) volunteered to show us different functions of the library program.  In reply, the TransitJason - GLASS employeeion Academy participants greeted our hosts by talking about our unique visual impairments and life experiences.   In turn, we learned that our GLASS instructors also have their own vision disorders and utilize multiple tools to perform their job duties and tasks.

The Transition class split into groups to conduct informational interviews with each employee and perform some job shadowing.  The day began with Jason, who oversees the BARD program.  BARD allows those who are visually impaired to access alternatively-formatted editions of their favorite books, by converting them into MP3 and Daisy audio files.  Jason mentioned that he could also download books straight to a patron’s cartridge or flash drive from a separate hard drive without relying oDiane - GLASS employeen the BARD software.  He even used his desktop to demonstrate how Bookshare can also convert text files into braille and audio formats.

Next, Diane demonstrated how she reviews the GLASS service applications utilizing a CCTV magnifier due to her own visual impairment.  Diane makes certain every applicant provides proof that they are blind, deaf, or otherwise physically disabled, because parents and teachers sometimes attempt to get their non-impaired students enrolled in GLASS, just to help them make it through schleft to right, Alsu, Maggie, Vanessa and Zoeool; taking away resources from those who genuinely need them.  Lastly, Vanessa taught everyone how to use CROSS- an interlibrary loan system- by allowing them to process some book order forms.

During lunch, Skylar interviewed Xavier Yancy for the Participant of the Week section of the TA blog.  Xavier is a rising freshman at Sprayberry High School, who learns best by observing others.  Xavier also has a passion for drawing and hopes to someday attend an Art College.  TXavier Yancyhough he doesn’t know what he hopes to attain by attending the Transition Academy, Xavier’ working goal is to eventually become a professional cartoonist.

After lunch, we explored the Tactile Exploration Area and played with the braille wall, Braille Wall at GLASSwhile we had some free time.  Finally, the TA participants showed their gratitude to Beverly and the other volunteers, by rolling up their sleeves and putting together some GLASS information packets.From front left to back right, Usher, Zoe, Alsu ,and Maggie - Copy

Informational Interviews & VRS Summer Transition Academy

Informational Interviews & VRS Summer Transition Academy

The theme of the June 13, 2017 Summer Transition Academy was “Informational Interviews.”  Instructors Jamie and Nancy introduced the basics of completing informational interviews to the VRS Transition Academy participants.  During Informational interviews, the job-seeker is permitted to ask employers questions about their personal experiences on the job.  Informational interviews are important, because they give individuals who are exploring the world of work, the opportunity to access a worker’s first-hand information about the education requirements, challenges, and benefits of pursuing a career in a particular industry.

After explaining how to conduct an informational interview, the students were divided into four separate groups to practice.  Group #4 (Ashley, Dalton and Zoey) had the opportunity to interview Karen, an interpreter for the deaf and blind.  Karen told Ashley that she first became interested in becoming an interpreter on the day that she walked into a local church and was moved to tears by the sight of a pastor leading a congregation of deaf people in prayer and worship.  Karen also shared with Zoe that the most difficult part of her job was being unable to become certified in dual sensory loss interpretation, due to the lack of educational resources available in Georgia.

Dr Forche speaking to AcademyDuring lunch, our low vision specialist Dr. Jon Forche, paid us a visit and shared with the participants that the greatest thing about his job with VRS was that it combined both his love of optometry with his passion for psychology.  Both Dr. Forche and his intern Colleen answered questions from the group regarding how they came to choose the field of Optometry for their career.

Zoe (left) and Heidi (right)

Zoe (left) and Heidi (right)

 

Zoe Romocki was interviewed as the Participant of the Week.  Zoe is a rising Junior at Lassiter High School, who has astigmatism.  She learned about the VRS Transition Academy through her mobility trainer.  The reason Zoe enrolled in this course, was to learn some of the skills that would make her marketable in the workforce.  Zoe shared that after learning about Informational Interviews, she feels like she’s off to a great start.  Zoe was able to practice her new skills when she visited the Smyrna Community Center, library and City Hall during this week’s afternoon session.

Summer Academy at Alpine Sign & Graphics Studio

Steve Gardner of Alpine Sign & Graphics Studio speaking to Summer Transition Academy participants

After lunch, the participants divided into smaller groups to practice their new informational interviewing skills within local community businesses.  One group visited Alpine Sign & Graphics Studio to work on the class logo with owner, Steve Gardner.  Steve shared an overview of how his career progressed to him being the owner of his studio.  The class received information on how one can have multiple careers over their lifetime.

A second group remained at VRS to interview Richard Hunt, owner of OTG-IT Consulting.  Richard showed the students how to build a PC from scratch, which they loved!

From left to right,William, Richard, and Gus

From left to right,William, Richard, and Gus

He shared that one of the challenges of his job was the need to travel a lot, since many PC issues are unsolvable remotely.  Nonetheless, Richard insisted that the thrill of working with technology was worth the trouble.  Another group visited the Downtown Smyrna District where they learned about different Smyrna City careers.  And, the last group was hosted by Uncle Maddio’s Pizza (Smyrna), where they were shown how a restaurant is run and the various types of jobs involved in that business.  These folks delivered several pizza boxes that had been assembled by the transition group and the VRS Job Readiness classes.

 

 

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