Vision-impaired teens learn, prosper

Vision-impaired teens learn, earn, prosper, enjoy campus

July 29, 2019
Ariel Wish '20
Students working on the St. Michael's College garden

Students from the LEAP program this summer on the St. Mike’s campus enjoy the benefit of being together in a supportive and attractive environment with things to do when they’re not at their training jobs off-campus. Directly above, they enjoy working at the Saint Michael’s College Farm. (photo courtesy of LEAP program

“We’re really happy we chose to come here—it’s been such a great place to have our students,” says class of 2017 alumni Cameron Hager, who is back on campus this summer to lead the Learn, Earn, and Prosper (LEAP) program. A branch of ReSOURCE, a nonprofit organization in Williston, VT, LEAP services the community through providing job training programs to blind or visually impaired individuals from the ages of 14-24, and has this year chosen St. Mike’s to house its summer programming.

Staying in Cashman Hall for the six-week long program—running from the end of June through the beginning of August—LEAP students engage in work experiences throughout the downtown Burlington and Williston areas. While younger participants work in stores and coffee shops to gain “base level skills” such as customer service and collaboration, older ones perform internships catering to their career goals, says Hager.

Although the majority of their time is spent out in the field, the students enjoy coming back to the warm and inviting St. Mike’s community at the end of the day to go to the gym, practice their bike riding skills around campus, walk to Dunkin’ Donuts, and cook with the Resident Assistant (RA) on their floor, a member of the class of 2020. “They haven’t really gotten a chance to interact with other college students before, and now they’re all getting to meet so many welcoming St. Mike’s students,” Hager says.

Hager is far from the only St. Mike’s native to be affiliated with LEAP. The program director herself, Kaelyn Modrak was a member of the class of 2008, while another leader of the program was a member of the class of 2018, he says.

In fact, strong St. Mike’s connections are what led LEAP to choose the College as the place of residency. While recent years have brought the program to the University of Vermont and Champlain College campuses, this year’s team was eager to show their students their old stomping grounds, confident that it would provide the perfect environment for their needs.

All alumni agree that being back on campus has felt like a “return to home.” With such a strong St. Mike’s base, Hager encourages interested alumni, current students, and community members to check out the Learn, Earn, and Prosper social media pages to find out more about the program.


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