Youth Slam Takes Sight Impaired Students To New Heights

Youth Slam Takes Sight Impaired Students To New Heights

Posted on Jul.29, 2009, by , under Educational, Inspirational Stories

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Blind high schoolers from across the country this week will build an environmentally friendly model home, launch weather balloons or create robots. And some will even drive a car!

The University of Maryland is hosting nearly 200 blind or low-vision high school students to try their hand at careers never thought possible for them: engineering, architecture, robotics and science. The National Federation of the Blind is holding its biennial Youth Slam here at the suggestion of Leigh Abts, a research associate professor in the College of Education with a longtime interest in opening science, technology, engineering and math fields to people with visual impairments.

“We’ve done some research and found that a lot of blind high school students go into college with a notion of what they are going to major in, but it’s not usually their choice,” said Karen Zakhnini, education project manager with the federation’s Jernigan Institute. A lot of times and their teachers or their guidance counselors or their parents have told them, “This would be good for you because you can actually do this.”

She said this program helps young people understand what they can do and decide if it’s what they want to do. As part of the weeklong event, college students and working professionals serve as living examples.

Nathan Redman, a rising high school senior from Nebraska, didn’t know what to expect. In the universal language of teenagers, though, he sums up what many of them feel on the first day: “It’s going to be awesome.”

On Monday, he and his peers flicked their canes open to navigate an unfamiliar, large campus to attend different sessions based on their interests. Nathan worked on designs for a green model home using wood blocks, flexible wax tubes and paper with raised grids….

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