PORT RICHEY — Getting your first job is a rewarding milestone for any teenager or young adult, and everyone should be able to feel that accomplishment when they get their first paycheck.
Last Wednesday, eight teenagers and young adults graduated from the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind’s teen summer program called the “School to Work Transition” program.
Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind is an organization that provides programs and guidance for people with vision impairments in Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus.
Lighthouse’s teen program teaches the youngsters about basic skills they need, as well as giving them work experience in a variety of settings.
Over a six-week period, the participants learned how to do basic skills that will help them go from being a teenager into adulthood including cooking, cleaning, budgeting, and employment skills.
“They’re also building a bit of a resume,” said Sylvia Stinson-Perez, executive director of Lighthouse.
The participants also gained work experience by going to several businesses including the SPCA of Suncoast and manufacturing companies.
The graduation had several special guests, including members from Lighthouse’s board of directors, the Florida Division of Blind Services and the United Way of Pasco County.
Each graduate received a certificate on behalf of the Florida representative Amanda Murphy, as well another certificate from Lighthouse and a letter of recommendation from Kenny Ratzlaff, the program’s transition coordinator.
Katrina Basso, 21, has been involved with Lighthouse for four years. She graduated from the program, but she also saw herself as a mentor for the younger participants.
“It makes them flourish. It teaches them how to accommodate better.” Basso said. “I recommend this program for anyone with a visual impairment.”
Joe Rice, 18, has been involved with Lighthouse for about six years. He believes the program helps participants learn important skills and feel proud of what they can do. “It’s basically life skills for them. It’s accomplishing challenges.” he said.
A couple of the parents spoke about the positive impact the program had on their child, and there were many happy tears.
Barbara Standley’s 17-year-old son Daniel graduated and she believes that the program has both social and practical benefits.
“He’s got more friends here. He gets out more.” Standley said. “This provides outlets to help him understand that there is more for him in the community than what is traditionally thought.”
Paul Firmani came to support his daughter, 20-year-old Kate, who has been in the program for the past four years.
“It’s taught her a lot about self-confidence,” Firmani, a Pasco County Court judge, said. “They really get exposed to a number of different job opportunities.”
The Lighthouse For The Visually Impaired and Blind is located at 8610 Galen Wilson Boulevard. The phone number is (727) 815-0303.