Friday Fun in Farmerville

Picture shows a group shot of all students, teachers, and TBS students in front of select pieces of art.

Picture shows a group shot of all students, teachers, and TBS students in front of select pieces of art.

On Friday, February 26, local elementary and middle school students journeyed to the Union Museum of History and Art in Farmerville, Louisiana to investigate the tactile and colorful artistry of blind painter John Bramblitt. You may learn more about Mr. Bramblitt’s story by clicking here.

Malayja and Kiona explore a piece of artwork with their fingers.

Malayja and Kiona explore a piece of artwork with their fingers.

Students also enjoyed a hands-on activity working with clay. It was a great opportunity for students to express their creativity and skills. Student's pieces varied from small bowls, to plates, to miniature bikes, and even pizzas!

Isaiah molds his clay into small circles for his minature bike. His buddy, Allison--a LaTech TBS student--assist in the activity.

Isaiah molds his clay into small circles for his minature bike. His buddy, Allison--a LaTech TBS student--assist in the activity.


Afterward, everyone returned to Ruston where we all enjoyed a refreshing treat from a local eatery. Then, it was time to burn off some of those calories at a playground before calling it a day.

Maniya balances while walking on chains at the playground, and Kiona hangs upside down on a bar.

Maniya balances while walking on chains at the playground, and Kiona hangs upside down on a bar.

In addition to our usual Friday and Saturday Club cast of characters, we were privileged to be joined by 4 graduate students from Louisiana Tech University’s Teaching Blind Students (TBS) program. These ladies were a tremendous help, and I dare say they had as much fun as the kids. It was great to witness the students’ curiosity about Mr. Bramblitt’s artwork and their energy when using their canes to navigate the playground and other settings.

Treva and Lindsay lead the group as we tap our canes from the ice shop to the park!

Treva and Lindsay lead the group as we tap our canes from the ice shop to the park!

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the staff and volunteers of the Union Museum of History and Art, as well as to the educators and master’s level students who interacted so wonderfully with all participants. Mr. Bramblitt overcame a spirit of fear, problem-solved, and found strategies and techniques to live the life he wants as a blind artist. We are working hard to give students the skills, attitudes, and opportunities to live the lives they want!

Mr. B explores Mardi Gras Window by John Bramblitt. This painting makes the section of the window feel like glass.

Mr. B explores Mardi Gras Window by John Bramblitt. This painting makes the section of the window feel like glass.

Rockin' the Braille Challenge

Lindsay with her 2nd place trophy

Lindsay with her 2nd place trophy

We are fond of and believe in the phrase "Braille Rocks!" The Braille Challenge, a program of Los Angeles, California's Braille Institute, embodies this belief as students gather for fun, camaraderie, and the exhilaration of competition. You may visit the Braille Challenge main page at http://www.brailleinstitute.org/braille-challenge-homepage.html

Three north Louisiana students, Passion, Jordan, and Lindsay, attended the February 17 regional Challenge held on the campus of the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired in Baton Rouge. Each of them reported having a blast! We are pleased to inform you that Lindsay took second place in the Junior Varsity division--grades 7-9. Of Braille, Lindsay said "Braille allows me to read great books." She is absolutely correct, and we are extremely proud of her tremendous effort and strong showing.

Jordan scribbling with a slate-n-stylus at dinner before the big challenge!

Jordan scribbling with a slate-n-stylus at dinner before the big challenge!

Jordan was the first place winner in the Apprentice division dedicated to first and second graders. He enthusiastically commented that, because of Braille, he does not need to rely on others to read to him and that the words have a life of their own under his fingers. Lindsay and Jordan demonstrate that Braille liberates the reader--enabling him or her to journey to thrilling worlds of discovery, adventure, and knowledge!

Passion checking out R2D2 at Braille Challenge

Passion checking out R2D2 at Braille Challenge

As was true for all three students, the Braille Challenge allowed Passion to use cane skills and other techniques of blindness to explore new environments and meet friends and mentors while reveling in the feeling of confidence that comes as a student tries new things and realizes the self-satisfaction that one can only achieve with accomplishment.

We are grateful to Krystal Guillory, Kristen Sims, and Martin Pardue for accompanying the students and for working tirelessly to promote true and lasting Braille literacy in their districts. So, yes indeed, Braille Rocks in 2016!

Picture shows a split screen. On the left: Lindsay leads Passion in find the girls' hotel room. On the right: Jordan uses his O&M skills to locate the elevator. 

Picture shows a split screen. On the left: Lindsay leads Passion in find the girls' hotel room. On the right: Jordan uses his O&M skills to locate the elevator. 

Retired Nurse Lives the Life She Wants

Please visit the link below to watch a news story about Ms. Dorothy Robinson--a proud 2014 LCB graduate. Ms. Robinson's willingness to make her voice heard on behalf of the blind is testament to her tireless dedication to others. Though technically retired, she has worked the past two summers as a counselor in our STEP Program, is drafting a book, and launching a motivational speaking tour. Ms. Robinson is indeed living the life she wants and changing what it means to be blind for herself and those she meets!

 

 

http://www.kten.com/story/31015828/blind-woman-speaks-to-community-and-the-work-force-about-disabilities?autoStart=true

A Journey to Run Again

We are happy to share this story from an LCB Alumnus.

 Posted by: Pacers Staff

Hi, I’m Evelyn!

I am a blind distance runner from Alexandria, VA. Other than running, I also enjoy skiing, boxing, and many other outdoor recreational activities. I ran in high school as a sighted runner, but as I went blind I did not think that I would be able to run again.

Recently, after moving to the area about 2 years ago, I injured my ankle badly and it put a major dent in my confidence. My walking speed slowed and I became hesitant getting around. But, in February, I was introduced to a Personal Fitness Trainer at work, and he told me that he would help me get back on my feet and running again. This is when my journey begins.

I would consider myself a disciplined and committed individual to staying fit and building a stronger “Evelyn”. Since I am an active participant in my life, I consistently renew the pact that I have with myself.

My Personal Fitness Trainer introduced me to tethers and the treadmill, and eventually we decided to step it up a notch and start running outdoors. Now, running allows me to feel so free and reassures me with a “sitting on top of the world” feeling!

After running for a few months, my Trainer and I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon 10k race as a short term goal and stepping stone for other races. With the momentum that I had built, this MCM 10k event became the sealing deal for me– running is what I want to do! I want to add a special shout-out and thank you to Joy Allen from the Pacers Fairfax location. She welcomed me to the Pacers community with open arms and I couldn’t be happier!

Finally, the day had come! October 25, 2015, I was up and ready in the early hours of the day. With a guide alongside me, I was putting myself to the test. The crowd and participants were lively and ready! We didn’t let the slight drizzle and overcast skies slow us down on race day. The crowds along the 10k course were loud and supportive. With shout outs like “Go Champ!”, and “Keep it up Girl!” …. I got the “running bug”!

With the race in my rearview mirror, I am looking forward to doing many more races at various distances in the near future. Thus far I have already signed myself up for the Shamrock Half-marathon and the Divas 5k Runlater this year.

I would like to leave you off with this one thought: you need to just take the first step and commit yourself to doing something. I give it my all. If I can do it, then you can too– ”if you don’t feel uncomfortable, then there is no challenge!”

By Evelyn Valdez

Evelyn and her trainer running in the Marathon.  

Evelyn and her trainer running in the Marathon.  

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Please read our annual LCB holiday message below including descriptions of the 10 photos found on this year’s card.

Picture shows the 2016 LCB Christmas card

Picture shows the 2016 LCB Christmas card

Message on the card: HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Wishing you a joyous holiday season and health, joy, and peace throughout the New Year! The LCB family

Photos from the card (Top left corner and going clockwise):

1. The Center’s Winter Wonderland

2. Swinging on the giant swing in Tennessee

3. Students at the Riverwalk in New Orleans during Mardi Gras

4. The catwalk to the zip line at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

5. Rafting on the Ocoee

6. Picking out this year’s Charlie Brown Christmas tree

7. The Center’s Thanksgiving buffet line

8. Horseback riding at the ranch

9. Students with Mardi Gras headdresses

10. Three rock climbers headed up the bluffs

Struttin' Our Socially Savvy Stuff!

We all know that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression and that putting one's best foot forward is a crucial component in building the relationships that will help us live the lives we want. So, when Eileen Rivera Ley of Ley and Associates and Cathleen Hanson with the International School of Protocol approached us about providing intensive instruction in social etiquette, dining skills, and strategies for improving interpersonal communication and networking, we were thrilled to partner with them.

Over the course of three days, Ms. Hanson and Ms. Ley, a tremendously successful blind woman and wife and business partner of LCB Chairman of the Board Tom Ley, worked with students in our Summer Training and Employment Project (STEP) Program on the above named skills. However, it was certainly not all work and no play. It as rewarding to realize that the students could learn a great deal and have a blast while doing so.

The training culminated in a formal dinner at a local venue for which everyone dressed to kill--drawing looks of admiration and smiles from patrons, wait staff, and instructors. Ms. Ley and Ms. Hanson discussed how gratified they were to witness the students' progress, particularly in such a short amount of time. This was Ms. Hanson's first opportunity to instruct blind teens. She readily admitted how much she learned in the finer points of alternative techniques from Ms. Ley and from observing the students as they put them into practice. The Louisiana Center for the Blind is appreciative of our guest instructors for their diligence in sharing such valuable life-long knowledge and skills with our students and program counselors!

Roarin' and Snorin' in the Rainforest

On Friday, April 24, students from Lincoln, Ouachita, and Winn Parishes joined teachers, parents, and Louisiana Center alumni at Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe to take part in an overnight excursion aptly named "Roar and Snore." Everyone learned a great deal about the Amazon Rainforest including the many products (e.g., chocolate, citrus, Brazil nuts, papaya, mango, cloves, coconut, coffee, etc.) found there. They were also invited to get up close and personal with various animals including a huge parrot.

The group didn't let a bit of stormy weather slow them down. A boat ride and tour was enjoyed by all--even when the weather started to look gloomy. They were encouraged to try various foods such as pineapple, papaya, and coconut found in this essential biome--which is disappearing at the rate of a football field every minute. Zoo staff delighted in the fact that the group wanted to make memories by naming a couple of newborn opossums. And, what better names than Louis and Braille!

Louis Braille Rocks, as do outings like Roar and Snore in which students and their families can experience the thrill of nature and take part in interesting hands-on activities vital to gaining greater spatial and environmental awareness and to just plain having fun! Special thanks to Kristen Sims for spearheading this Friday/Saturday Club gathering and to LCB's Pam Allen and PDRIB's Dr. Edward Bell for facilitating trip financing. We look forward to future collaborations with the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo as our students and their families live the lives they want through community involvement.

If you would like to see pictures and read about other Saturday Club events, visit the Saturday Club Facebook Page.

The Dots: A Poem for My Hero

Sophie has participated in our Buddy and STEP Programs and will soon begin training at the Center as an adult student. We are also very proud that she is a member of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students (LABS) Board for our state affiliate. Here at LCB, we loudly proclaim an undeniable truth--that Braille Rocks! Check out Sophie's poem below for her wonderfully-stated perspective on this timeless and priceless code that continues to bring literacy and independence nearly two centuries after it was first developed by the intrepid French gentleman for whom it is named.

 

 

The Dots: A Poem for My Hero

By Sophie Trist

 

In France, a young man works late into the night.

No candle burns beside him, for he needs no light.

Since the age of three, he has had no sight.

He feels his way in the dark

guided by nothing but a dream.

A dream of opening doors,

of opening the world.

He knows there are others like him,

others who do not see.

He knows that the written word is closed to them.

So he works late into the night, creating the dots.

When he finishes, the dots are only six in number, but they are infinite.

They create all words, all stories, all things.

The young man's name is Louis Braille.

 

In America, a young girl works late into the night.

No candle burns beside her, for she needs no light.

Since the day she was born, she has had no sight.

The young man is long dead,

a hero lost to the ages,

but his dots and his dream remain,

carried forth by the young girl, for whom all doors are now open.

With his dots, she creates worlds.

Dragons fly over snowy mountains,

mermaids swim in frothing seas,

sorcerers use their esoteric magic,

warrior queens fight for their thrones.

The young girl would not be the passionate writer she is if not for the dots.

Though they are as small as grains of sand, they are everything to her.

Because of those six dots and their infinite combinations, this young girl can become anything.

The young girl's name is Sophie Trist.

 

Let the Flakes Fly!

The flakes are falling thick and fast this morning, presenting some unique learning opportunities and just plain good times for our students and staff. And, while we realize that many of our neighbors to the north are more than fed up with record-setting snowfalls, we are grateful for ours. What a rare gift for this part of the world, and how we will think fondly upon this day during the summer!

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Walking In New Orleans

Image shows staff and students crossing Bienville St

Image shows staff and students crossing Bienville St

In 1960, Fats Domino collaborated with Bobby Charles to create the R&B standard "Walking to New Orleans." The song speaks of one engaged in an arduous journey to return to the city he loves. For some, our annual trip to Mardi Gras in the Crescent City is viewed with concern and incredulity. Why, they contend, should blind people subject themselves to the crowds and other potential obstacles? Why should they be so interested in traveling to New Orleans during this most boisterous of holidays? Please read on as our students answer these questions and discuss why it is so important that they had the opportunity to walk in New Orleans.

Mary poetically says: "Masks and melodies, beads and boat tours, food and fun, those are the memories which I will always associate with my first ever Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Though the trip is done as a training activity, it is virtually impossible to visit that most personable city, during its signature festival, and avoid thoroughly enjoying oneself. It is also impossible to go with LCB staff and students, and not help but realize that the blindness skills which we have earned during our training do apply to all of life; whether it is walking through the French Quarter, and knowing which way is East and which is West, and being able to find places you have never heard of independently, or whether it is traveling on board a river boat, these are the skills which will carry us through the rest of our lives. It is extremely satisfying for all of us to realize that these skills are not only giving us the independence to live in the world as we wish, but that this independence includes the choice to enjoy life."

Karoll tells us: "My name is Karolline, and I am 34 years old. I have been blind since I was born and I have always been living in Brazil. In June, 2014, I got the chance to start a training for blind adults at Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB). It  gave me the opportunity to participate in the Mardi Gras 2015. It was my first Mardi Gras, so everything was new. I really enjoyed watching the parades, catching the beads, and get to know a little bit of New Orleans. I also appreciated the wonderful music (Jazz and Blues) that I could listening to all over the streets. Besides that, I took advantage of the culture regarding to different kinds of food and drinks. The most important of all is that I was able to enjoy everything by using the cane travel skills that I have been gaining as a student at LCB. This center is definitely the best confidence builder that I have ever been. Thank you LCB staff for everything you guys have been teaching me."

Jason did not allow fear to stop him. Here's what he has to say: "One of the main ways that Marti Gras increased my confidence was navigating through the crowds of people. At first, I didn't think I would go to Bourbon Street just because I heard that it was so crowded, loud, dirty, and full of people who are under the influence of alcohol. I was also afraid that I would lose my group members. Well, another member of my group wanted to go to Bourbon Street, so we ended up going there. When we got there, it was what I had expected, yet there were many friendly people who just gave us beads and a nice man who prayed for us and our success. I don't know if I'll go back there again, but it was an experience that I'll always remember. Another way that I became more confident was realizing that I am able to navigate in a totally unfamiliar city. Each member of our group took turns leading and getting directions to where we wanted to go. It was clear to me that the travel skills that I learned in Ruston work in any city and inspired me to get out and explore. We asked the hotel workers and staff members for recommendations of restaurants and places to go, decided where we wanted to go, and just stuck to our guns. We all had a great Marti Gras experience."

Jade enthusiastically declares: "Mardi Gras was a huge eye-opening experience for me. Before I went, I was worried about getting separated from my group, crazy tourists, being able to navigate through huge crowds, etc. Even though I was nervous, I was also excited, and I knew I had the travel skills to get around unfamiliar areas. While I was there, I learned that I had nothing to worry about. Dealing with crazy people is something that everyone goes through, sighted or not. Also, I realized that the systems we had set in place for staying together worked beautifully, and I learned that having fun and enjoying yourself instead of panicking and worrying about what could happen made the trip really awesome. Knowing all of this, I am certain that if I go to Mardi Gras events again, I will not be nearly as apprehensive as I was before."

Caitlin didn't let the crowds slow her down. She says: "Mardi Gras was certainly a different experience for me—something I've never experienced before, but certainly enjoyed. While I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I was challenged with confidence building. Some of the things I learned and became more confident in made me extremely happy. One of the major confidence builders for me was navigating through large crowds of people at a good walking pace. There wasn’t many times where I found it too difficult to move around the people and I would always say “excuse me,” or “I’m sorry,” if I bumped into anyone. Another big confidence builder for me was seeing and realizing the techniques I’ve learned really do transfer to any situation while traveling. I also managed to come out of my shell and be more assertive with getting information and directions to a place I wanted to go. Knowing I can do these things now makes me happy, and I am looking forward to doing more exercises like this even after I graduate."

Joy demonstrates her willingness to communicate why we do what we do and has this to share: "When I heard that LCB was going to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I shuttered inside. I did not want to go, because of the crowds there. However, I surprised myself as I traveled down the streets with very few problems, enjoying the sounds of Carnival music, and meeting people. I got the chance to explain what the purpose of bringing a bunch of blind students to Mardi Gras was all about to a good many people who wanted to know. Outside a music store a man and woman approached a fellow student and me, and they asked to pray for us. One of the instructors that was with our group said sure, and asked if we can pray for them as well. I got the chance to sing for the couple, then I led the prayer for them, and then they prayed for us. While those two people went away amazed, I went away feeling happy that I could demonstrate that I had talent and independence on my side. That was my favorite experience at Mardi Gras. Our group went on a boat ride, and ate lunch there. The Jazz music was absolutely fantastic, and the food was excellent. While navigating the buffet was challenging, I enjoyed the chance to choose my own kinds of food. Though I had lots of fun, I learned more about street crossing, communicating with the sighted world in teaching those who want to know truly what it means to be blind, and that is getting out and enjoying life, as well as learning from each experience."

Finally, Anne shows us that Mardi Gras isn't just a training exercise, but THAT IT can and should be a great time! "The Mardi Gras trip was my favorite experience in training so far.  I sincerely enjoyed the entire trip.  Aside from just having a fun time, I experienced personal growth, and improvement in blindness skills.  It is great to see that your new blindness skills   really do work in real life situations, and to see how much you have learned.  Personally, I noticed improvement in my travel skills, specifically mental mapping, planning routes, keeping track of a group, and moving effectively through crowds.  I noticed this just through doing simple fun things, like finding a restaurant to have dinner at, or locating a store that interested me, or exploring the French market.  Throughout the trip, multiple people asked, how do you have an enjoyable experience at Mardi Gras if you can’t see?”  With the blindness skills and confidence I have gained so far through the LCB training, and the things I learned during the trip, I had just as good of a time, if not better, as everyone else attending Mardi Gras."

Worth His Salt

Champion drag racer Dan Parker reached out to the National Federation of the Blind when first beginning his "Quest for the Salt," striving to become the first blind man to race independently on Utah's famed Bonneville Salt Flats. LCB is pleased and proud that Dan chose to receive skills training in Ruston. In addition to working diligently as a student, Dan's active mind generates ideas and projects which are proving beneficial to our youth programs, and his willingness to put his skill sets into practice through role modeling are a blessing to many.

 

Check out the YouTube link below to watch Dan's 2014 national convention address "The Blind At Speed." To keep up with the latest developments, follow Dan on Twitter @QuestfortheSalt and on Facebook at Dan Parker's Quest for the Salt.

 

http://youtu.be/DKT2_tUe9o8

Learning to Live the Lives They Want! By Eric Guillory

On Saturday, December 13, 2014, area blind students and their families gathered at the Center for the annual Saturday Club holiday extravaganza! It was a wonderful time of fun, fellowship, and giving back to the community--complete with a visit from Santa, a gentleman who just happens to be blind and one who demonstrated his enthusiasm for Braille by reading to the children. Attendees partook in hot cocoa and cookies, wrote letters to Santa, constructed edible sleighs, and decoded Braille Christmas-themed riddles. Finally, the kids and volunteers traveled to two local nursing facilities to distribute holiday door hangers and sing carols to those in residence. Everyone reported having an enjoyable time, and, before heading home, each child was given a ceramic holiday mug to commemorate the occasion.

Special thanks go to Sheena Manuel, Outreach Specialist with the Professional Development and Research Institute On Blindness at Louisiana Tech University for spearheading the event, as well as to Pam Allen and Dr. Edward Bell for contributing (both financially and with their talents) to this very successful day. We would also like to thank Laura Bostick, President of the Louisiana Organization of Parents of Blind Children, for her active promotion of and participation in all aspects of the gathering. Last, but certainly not least, this would not have been possible without the enthusiastic participation of Maria Morais, Victoria and Samantha Bell, Joanne Gabias, Stephanie Martin, Paige Morra, Treva Olivero, Justin Salisbury, and Leesa Wallace. These LCB alumni and educators believe in the power of training and role modeling to equip students with the tools they need to live the lives they want.

Positive media coverage is always a welcome instrument to advertise and promote our programs. Please see the link below, which will take you to a story about the day which aired on Monroe's KTVE 10's Saturday evening newscasts.

http://tinyurl.com/k8jgwqd

Students making cocoa

Students making cocoa

A Message to Our Alumni and Friends

As 2014 draws to a close, we are thankful to each of you for the positive ways in which you have influenced our lives! We are so proud of your accomplishments and grateful for all you do each day to "change what it means to be blind." From our LCB family to yours, may 2015 be filled with peace, adventure, and happiness! Live the life you want!

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The card is a collage of 13 pictures that encapsulate our memories at LCB--some include horseback riding, Mardi Gras, white water rafting, rock climbing, travel, etc. 

Celebrating Student's Success!

At the Louisiana Center for the Blind, we are always challenging our students to get out of their comfort zones.  Each day, our students and graduates are pushing the boundaries and breaking down the barriers and misconceptions about blindness which exist.  Dan Parker is currently a student at LCB.  Read about his record-setting experience below!  

https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm14/bm1409/bm140910.htm

Give a child a cane, and ...

Did you know that a child's first Mobility teacher(s) is his or her parents? Joe Cutter speaks to this topic in his Future Reflections article, which can be read using this link.

https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr14/fr04se13.htm

As you have probably heard, getting a cane into a baby's hands as soon as possible is best. Here Mia, 9 months old, demonstrates exploration with her cane. Her mother, Baylee, shoots the video and provides auditory feedback. Mia is receiving Early Intervention services through LCB  via Early Steps; but more importantly, Mia has a very supportive family and a FIRST MOBILITY TEACHER--her mom!

Check out MIA's video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2-tYYBzmFY&feature=youtu.be

Unified English Braille

We were happy to co-host a Unified English Braille Workshop in our new building. It is great to see so many professionals and consumers wanting to learn quickly and keep up their skills. 

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