Summer school classes teach visually impaired students life skills

BOISE, Idaho - For two weeks every summer, the National Federation of the Blind, Bell Academy, offers free classes to visually impaired children.

 "We want kids to learn their skills to be confident...to believe that blindness is not going to dictate their future," Dana Ard, a volunteer teacher said.

The students spend hours in the classroom practicing braille and learning life skills. The program targets four to twelve-year-olds and pairs the children with volunteer teachers like Ard who are also blind.

"They need adult role models," Ard said. "They need to know that even if you don't have your sight, you can still put your sight on goals that matter and achieve them."

This year, high school students were able to intern, each with their own courageous story. Becca Bruyere, a Boise High School Junior, says her visual impairment started when she was young.

"When I was 18 months old I was diagnosed with retinal blastoma," Bruyere said. "Its a really rare form of retinal cancer and it affects 1 in ten thousand children."

After two relapses, Bruyere has been cancer-free for seven years! She has a prosthetic left eye and not much sight in her right eye. That's not stopping her. Bruyere says she plans to go to college and shares her life experiences with the young students.

"I think what people need to know is that everyone is different and just because they can't see you doesn't mean they are less smart," Bruyere said.

Program coordinator, Alison Steven, says people sometimes have low expectations for the visually impaired, but the children are just like everyone else.

"They are just another kid," Steven said. "You don't need to treat them in any special way. I think one of the challenges is that people tend to lower their expectation of blind kids. You assume they are not going to be able to do something."

The Bell Academy also holds summer school classes for the visually impaired in Idaho Falls and Coeur D' Alene. 
 

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