Vision · Opportunities · Innovation · Choices · Expertise
Oregon Commission for the Blind, September 2019
Photo of Dacia Johnson OCB Executive Director

Governor Brown’s Action Plan for Oregon includes job training for youth, investing in the future workforce for Oregon. This edition of The Voice features transition-aged youth who are actively preparing for their future careers. Whether it is exploring their career goals, learning valuable independence skills, or applying their abilities to participate in recreational activities, these young adults are fully engaged! These experiences are made possible thanks to the many businesses in Oregon partnering with OCB each year to sponsor a SWEP student at their worksite. They share our commitment to diversity and inclusion, recognizing that a workforce that reflects the community you live in is good for business! 

I hope you enjoy reading about SWEP 2019 and the future workforce of Oregon. If you are interested in sponsoring a SWEP student at your organization in the Summer of 2020, it isn’t too early to reach out !

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which shines a spotlight on the contributions that individuals with disabilities make to the workforce. Click here  to learn more. October 15 th is White Cane Safety Day, which celebrates the White Cane both as a tool to travel and to raise awareness about pedestrians who experience vision loss. Please see the announcement at the end of this newsletter to learn about a Portland-based White Cane Safety Day  event . I hope you are able to take some time in October to join an event recognizing these important occasions!
Photo of a smiling young man giving the hang loose sign to the camera. He stands between two smiling Grocery Outlet employees in front of a forklift. One employee gives the camera a we-did-it fist-pump.

OCB is celebrating the successful conclusion of its 45th Summer Work Experience Program, or SWEP. Serving youth ages 16-20 with low vision, this popular program helps prepare youth to live independently and enter the workforce. With programs in Portland and Salem, SWEP serves a diverse group of students from many parts of the state!
What is SWEP?
Photo of a laughing young man holding a white cane. His job mentor who is also laughing has her arm around him and holds a completion certificate. His job developer and his dormitory manager stand smiling next to him.
An immersive 5-6 week-long experience, SWEP students live in a dormitory setting, take classes on independent living at OCB, and have OCB-paid, meaningful community-based work experiences carefully designed to be relevant to their individual career goals, personal strengths, and identified areas of growth. Prior to beginning their work experiences, a SWEP student:
●  Prepares and refines resumes
Practices a 60-second “elevator pitch”
  Engages in mock interviews
  Learns and discusses disability disclosure
  Hones professional communication strategies
  Learns budgeting and independent living skills
  Discusses ADA guidelines
 Models professional attire in the annual SWEP fashion show!

Throughout the entire Prep Week, students are also engaged in intensive Orientation and Mobility training. There they learn to safely navigate to and from their work sites using cane skills, mobility technology, and public transportation.
Photo of a smiling young woman in an apron and safety glasses. She holds a plate of handmade glass jewelry in a brightly colored room full of craft supplies. Over her shoulder a smiling female employee leans in giving two thumbs up.
Photo of several youth on a hiking trail wearing backpacks and holding white canes. One reaches up and touches a mossy rock cliff-face by the trail.
Finally, the students are interviewed at their SWEP employment sites, beginning work the following week. Students typically work 25-30 hours per week while also participating in college and career prep activities. They also enjoy a full schedule of recreational and social activities, ranging from hiking at Silver Falls to bowling alongside puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Between our Salem, Portland, and Third Track SWEP programs, we placed 26 youth at worksites throughout the Salem and Portland Metro areas for a total of nearly 2000 combined work hours!

New This Year

This year we brought several exciting changes to the program:
Expansion to a Third Track
We introduced a "third track" of community-based work experiences for students who are not able to attend either our Portland or Salem programs.
Picture of a smiling young man in an orange Camp Abilities Oregon shirt. He holds a white cane and stands at the island of a spacious brightly-lit kitchen. Behind him other students and instructors do food prep.
Picture of a young man leaning over a table towards several children he is instructing.

Pilot Project for Third-Year Students
This new program provides the opportunity for one Salem student and one Portland student to attend SWEP for a third year to allow for continued growth.
Picture of a SWEP student climbing a three-story rock wall. He is near the top. He is attached to the steep rock face by safety ropes.

"So Extras"

"So Extras" are additional career exploration activities created with each individual student and their evolving career goals and interests in mind.

These are real-life experiences such as informational interviews, job shadows, auditions, public performances, career assessment, and job tours.
Photo of a music store with several acoustic guitars hanging on the wall. In the foreground a young man concentrates on polishing the frets of an electric guitar. An employee looks on giving guidance.
More Peer Mentoring
This year we matched new SWEP students with previous participants, giving new students a much richer and more supportive experience, and providing opportunities for leadership among more seasoned students.

Active Learning Strategies

To increase student participation, enthusiasm, and retention of valuable career-related knowledge, we emphasized strategies that actively involved each student in their learning experience.
New Community Partners 
This year we welcomed new community and business partners such as Classic Pianos, Legal Aid of Oregon, Boys & Girls Club of Portland, Community Vision Assistive Technology Lab, Planned Parenthood, and Portland Center Stage! We look forward to continuing to develop these amazing new partnerships alongside many of our incredible long-time business partners such as New Seasons Market, Independent Living Resources, and OMSI!
Photo of a smiling young woman standing in front of a glass door and giving a peace sign to the camera. A sign on the door reads Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area.
Group photo of Portland SWEP graduates laughing and holding a large SWEP sign board they have all written messages on.

We want to sincerely thank all of the community partners involved in making SWEP 2019 another successful and life-changing experience for our students. We truly couldn’t do it without you!
Picture of a colorful drawing in the style of Keith Haring. People with white canes are crossing at an intersection while a car waits below a stop sign. Other people nearby are dancing. Text in the middle of the image says My Cane Is My Right Of Way.

WHEN: Tuesday October 15th 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
WHERE: Portland State University, Smith Memorial Student Union, 1825 SW Broadway Street, Portland, OR 97201.

This event is hosted by the Pedestrian Safety Action Coalition & cosponsored by Vision Zero and partners who seek to increase pedestrian safety by informing the public of longstanding Oregon and Portland crosswalk laws. To download a flier about the event, please click here. For the full press release or to contact event organizers, please click here.
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