Portland, ME – Catching the bus, personal safety instruction and meal preparation are not the typical experiences for high schoolers attending camp, but for 10 teenagers with visual impairments from all across Maine these are some of the many skills they’ll learn as participants in Maine’s award-winning LIFE (Learning, Independence, Fun and Employment) 101 and 201 programs.
The teens live together in dorms at Southern Maine Community College and spend their days mastering daily living tasks designed to help them gain greater independence through volunteering or working paid internships and even traveling to neighboring cities and states — all to help prepare them for college and beyond.
The program is funded through Maine’s Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI) and is a collaborative effort between Catholic Charities Maine’s Education Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Children (ESBVIC), the Iris Network and DBVI.
The two-week LIFE 101 introduced in 2016 was so successful, garnering regional attention with an award from the Northeast Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, that this summer the three-week LIFE 201 was launched for high school seniors.
And while many of the activities and outings are fun, they’ve been carefully designed to cover the expanded core curriculum for students with visual impairments, including developing social, recreational and independent living skills, orientation and mobility, career education and technology among others.
“It’s wonderful for teens to have this opportunity to connect with others who are living with a visual impairment, especially since often times they can be the only ones in their schools who struggle with this challenge,” said Nancy Moulton, Director of Education Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Children at Catholic Charities Maine. “The shared sense of comradery makes it a safe environment for them to try new things and really gives a boost to their self-confidence and an enhanced sense of responsibility.”
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