Tasks such as using a knife, cooking on the stove, or buying groceries are routines we do without thinking. However, for students in our LEAP (Learn, Earn, and Prosper) program, these tasks require courage, practice, and trust. Through the ReSOURCE LEAP program for blind or visually impaired youth, Eric Smith started working in the Overlook Café in December 2017. During the next 18 months, Eric not only learned how to use kitchen equipment, he also learned how to receive feedback from others.
On Monday mornings, Eric runs errands for the café, including picking up milk orders and doing bank runs. Later in the day, he prepares food in the kitchen and makes sure products are fully stocked. He was recently given the opportunity to run the cash register for the first time. This was a milestone for Eric. Previously his stubbornness had caused doubts in his ability to be patient with customers. When asked how he changed his behaviors, Shelby Glass, the LEAP Program Assistant Manager simply said, “Feedback.”
At the Overlook Café, holding each other accountable is a philosophy that every staff member embraces. Shelby said, “We don’t let people slide on anything. Because we care about them, we want them to grow forward and accomplish their goals—challenge themselves to be better.”
For Eric, the café’s working environment enabled him to gain social skills and change his behaviors to follow through with directions and feedback. He said, “I am patient with customers. I try to hold my tongue.”
By interacting with customers on a day to day basis, Eric has improved his relationship with others. Peers from the LEAP Program joined in Eric’s housewarming party last week to celebrate his official move-in to a single apartment where he now lives independently and cooks for himself. While there are times he still needs assistance from staff, such as asking Shelby to show him how to use the laundry machine at the laundromat, the LEAP program nonetheless gives students with vision impairments the opportunity to grow and gain confidence in living on their own.