California Association of Blind Students Seminar-A Success!

By Ronit Ovadia, First Vice-President, CABS

Robert Stigile, President, California Association of Blind Students
Robert Stigile, President, California
Association of Blind Students

From November of last year to this April, the California Association of Blind Students (CABS) board and I worked on a student seminar, which took place April 5, 2003, in the Bay Area at the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco. This seminar was geared toward high school students, although there were also college students who attended. The title of the seminar was "The Road to Success," and several topics important to blind high-schoolers were addressed. Being new to the board, this was quite an experience for me. However, I was excited to be involved and honored that I was chosen as the leader of the planning committee for this event. I had never planned anything of this kind before, and there were so many details to be considered. Everything from who we should invite to speak to what we should serve for lunch were important issues we discussed and planned. We also worked on outreach, and several schools and teachers were contacted to let them know about our seminar.

After so many months of planning, the big day finally arrived. All of us were nervous, thinking that we wouldn't have enough people because our RSVP list had only a few names on it. However, we had about 10 students who came, along with parents and teachers of these students. This was the first exciting part for me; seeing the students actually arrive and register. In the morning, we had all sorts of speakers discussing several different topics. Nancy Burns, president of the NFBC, spoke about what the NFBC is and attitudes about blindness. Patricia Leetz, a rehabilitation counselor from Alameda County, gave tips on what rehabilitation services are available and how to make sure you benefit from these services. Michael Thomas, who works for Social Security, gave a talk about how Social Security is important for students as well as working adults. We also covered the topic of training centers for the blind. I spoke about the process I went through in order to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind this upcoming summer. Finally, because we all like to have fun, we had a representative from the Environmental Traveling Companions tell us about outdoor activities available to blind people. Their programs include everything from rock climbing to river rafting, water skiing and snow skiing. Throughout all these presentations, the audience was involved and asked many good questions directed to each of the speakers. Several of these questions initiated many conversations that continued into the lunch hour.

After our informative morning, we took a lunch break and served pizza and soda to everyone. This was a great way to maintain contact with everybody throughout lunch, and people really got to know one another during this time. Several of the CABS board members talked with students and answered their questions during our lunch break. During the afternoon session we divided the students, parents and teachers into three discussion groups. Each group was led by one or two of our board members who had pre-assigned topics to discuss, ranging from disability student offices, to rehabilitation, to blindness training and even social skills and other social issues. After each group had discussed their topics for half an hour, the groups cycled to the next group, and after an hour and a half of discussion time, everyone had a chance to meet with all the discussion leaders and get many of their questions answered. This was a particularly successful activity, as everyone got involved. Whether they were a student, a parent or teacher, they were able to ask their own questions and tailor the discussion to meet their own needs.

Overall, this seminar was quite a success. We had an interested group and all our activities seemed to be well received. Participation was a great part of this. Although it was the first seminar I had planned, it went very well and I am hoping that I will have the privilege to help plan our annual seminar for next year as well.

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