COVID-19 has challenged the way DSB has needed to conduct our work, and the current situation is impacting our planning for summer youth programs.
DSB has made the decision to cancel the array of in-person Summer 2020 youth programs that have typically provided intensive career exploration, job readiness, peer interactions, and paid work experiences to students who have visual disabilities throughout Washington State.
This is not an easy decision. We are in planning now for alternative remote and local activities to engage students in meaningful aspects of these traditional DSB youth programs.
These summer youth programs have been a core element of DSB’s services for years.
The Youth Employment and Solutions (YES) work exposure and paid experience programs have been held every summer since 1997, and the Bridge program - providing readiness for the transition to higher education –has operated since 1998. The more recently developed programs have also all become valued and established opportunities for students to gain skills, independence, and job readiness during the summer - programs such as the LEAP program providing exposure to the work world for students who require supports; the Skills workshops providing hands-on exploration of the variety of careers, peer interactions, independence and job readiness; and the Student Work and Academic Growth (SWAG) program providing skills to manage part time work and academic requirements. All these youth programs are part of the DSB DNA.
We hope that by summer some normalcy has been regained. However, we do know now that many facilities and university locales we rely on to conduct these in-person activities will not be available throughout the summer. Data indicates social distancing may need to continue into the summer.
Youth Services staff will be contacting the students and their families who had planned to attend our in-person programs this summer, and will develop ways to keep in touch as plans for alternative activities become solidified.
While we are frustrated that the in-person youth summer work programs are taking a gap year this summer, our hope is that we take the opportunity to find new ways to provide our services that may improve the way future summer programs are held.
Thank you for your understanding. We welcome your creative thoughts and ideas on alternate meaningful career exploration activities that honor the potential need to practice social distancing through the summer.
Take care all,
Michael MacKillop, Acting Executive Director
Department of Services for the Blind