Level Up Program hits the mark with students

Angela Cato - Aug 28, 2017

Tags: Education    Programs    Support    Youth   
If 18-year-old Megan Schmidt from Kansas City, Missouri had to rate this year’s Level Up Conference for high school students, she’d give it a perfect five stars.

“I feel like I’ve grown as a person, and I was a little more open to talking to new people who have gone through the same life struggles as me. Most of us have been bullied, so I can relate to that,” Megan said. “I was really nervous in the beginning to attend because I had never been away from home for a week. I like that I took the opportunity to come here because I learned a lot about computers, made new friends and got to do fun activities. It really tested my independence, because I stayed in a dorm. I didn’t realize how much I could do independently, but now I know.”

This was the first year that Megan attended Level Up, and she’s exciting by the thought of returning next year. She was one of nearly 60 students who are blind or visually impaired who benefitted from Level Up’s theme “Connect. Engage. Act.”

Level Up is tailored for students with visual impairments who want to succeed in academics, explore assistive technology, enhance their interpersonal skills and prepare for their entry into the workforce. Previously known as the Envision Assistive Technology Camp, this year Envision adopted its new name. By using the words “Level Up,” Envision hopes to encourage young people in the program to be in a constant state of growth – to always be looking for ways to excel and advance their goals.

The Middle School Level Up Assistive Technology Program was held May 30-June 4 at Newman University. The High School Level Up Conference took place July 9-14 at Wichita State University. Sessions ranged from art, music and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) to interpersonal and self-advocacy skills and career planning. For the first time, the Level Up Conference included a College, Career and Resource
Expo and a benefit concert by special guest José André Montaño, a 13-year-old, Bolivian-born jazz piano prodigy with cerebral palsy who is blind. Montano has performed around the world, most notably at the Kennedy Center in New York City and World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Launched 12 years ago, Level Up has grown each year and served hundreds of students from around the country who were nominated by their school districts’ Teachers of the Visually Impaired to attend. This year’s syllabus expanded like never before, and participants can look forward to even more additions in the future.

The Level Up Program is led by Support Services Director Bonnie Cochran. To learn more about
Level Up and ways to get involved, contact Bonnie at 316-440-1510 or bonnie.chochran@envisionus.