Many people are familiar with the Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB)’s work helping seniors and adults, but helping youth successfully transition from school to the workforce though pre-employment activities, or “Pre-ETS”, is another significant part of what we do.
Perhaps because we’ve held it for 45 years, one of our more well-known Pre-ETS programs is the Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP). Serving youth ages 16-20 with low vision, SWEP helps prepare youth to live independently and enter the workforce. With programs in Portland and Salem, students typically work between 25-30 hours per week at worksites related to their career interests.
They live together in dormitory settings where they develop independent living skills from laundry to cooking and budgeting. They also participate in college and career prep activities and countless social and recreational activities.
We’d like to share the exciting progress of one of our students, Daniel Bair. During SWEP 2019, Daniel worked at the SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) program at James John Elementary. There he managed child safety, provided active learning opportunities, and developed curricula as appropriate. The experience increased Daniel’s experience and professional skillset in education settings, as well as his understanding of instructing and working with children.
“Daniel is an incredible young man with a big heart and a beautiful spirit,” says Cinda Jackson, his supervisor at James John. “He brought so much joy to the James John Elementary students he worked with during our SEI SUN Summer Program last year.
“His presence reminded students that nothing was impossible and they could do anything they wanted to do if they put their mind to it.”
“Daniel is so bright and empathetic, and an excellent mentor to his peers. I’m sure he is going to be an outstanding teacher someday,” says Carolyn Frank, Portland SWEP Coordinator. “I am impressed with how hard he worked during SWEP, and how hard he worked to get where he is now.”
This year Daniel graduated from Forest Grove High School. He was an active member of his goalball team and choir, and has excelled academically, taking AP classes to prepare for college. As the result of his hard work and extracurricular activities, Daniel has earned multiple scholarships and honors that will support him with education and beyond.
His high school awarded him the Harold Alfred Wyatt scholarship, and he was offered free tuition from two universities, including the University of Oregon where he will attend this fall. He was also designated a Ford Family Scholar, a competitive program which will cover up to 90% of unmet financial need. Daniel would like to apply his passion for helping others and his lived experience to a career instructing students experiencing vision loss.
The summer of 2020, Daniel returned to SWEP, participating in OCB’s first ever virtual SWEP. He focused on skills relating to post-secondary planning, the processes around obtaining employment, daily living skills development, and self-advocacy and self-care.
Daniel emerged as a leader during virtual SWEP and was awarded the honor of SWEPee of the year. He earned this award through demonstrating an eagerness to learn, accepting and adapting to feedback, communicating well with his peers, and displaying an ever-present positive attitude.
With all of his accomplishments and his indomitable spirit, Daniel is sure to become a leader in his field. The OCB team is so honored to be part of his journey, and we know someday we will be proudly saying “We knew him when…”!
PS. You can also find Daniel’s story on the Oregon Commission for the Blind’s June 2020 newsletter, “The Voice.”
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