Level Up staying true to its name and growing ‘beyond measure’

Angela Cato - Jul 31, 2018

Tags: Development    Education    Programs    Workforce    Youth   
More than 80 total participants. Eleven states. The numbers say it all – Envision’s Level Up program is officially a national event.
 
“This year was our second year of national outreach, and we genuinely reached coast to coast. The state of Washington was represented all the way to the East Coast with a four-state Delaware co-op,” said Hannah Christenson, support program coordinator at Envision. “We broadened our scope beyond measure.”
 
The momentum that started with the Level Up Middle School Assistive Technology Program in May/June carried through to the Level Up High School Conference, which was held June 26 through July 1 on the campus of Wichita State University (WSU). The benefits of the program were summed up perfectly by one student.
 
“Level Up helps me meet and interact with new people and work my hardest to be the person I should be,” said Hashim Syed, whose vision loss was brought on by a retinal detachment.
 
The Level Up Conference had a packed six-day agenda, including more than 50 hours of sessions and activities that delved into subjects such as electrical engineering, robotics, aeronautics and programming. Students also collaborated with the WSU College of Engineering on its GoBabyGo! program that modifies off-the-shelf ride-on toy cars for kids with disabilities at no cost to families.
 
“We pushed the boundaries of what people think children with visual impairments can do,” Hannah said. “We had students using drill presses, band saws, sautering, re-wiring, coding – and that was all in addition to the tech skills we teach every year.”
 
Students also benefited from interactions with adult mentors with visual impairments who passed on their secrets to success. Jessica Loomer, a Boston Marathon runner and research administration coordinator for clinical trials at the University of Arizona’s Health Sciences Department who went blind at age 27, presented the keynote address and led workshops. Nationally acclaimed acoustic musicians Wayne Pearcy on trumpet and Cliff Schmitt on bass combined their limited eyesight with limitless talent to entertain and inspire at the July 1 Family Concert.
 
Another standout opportunity of the week was the College, Career and Resource Expo.
 
“The expo was amazing. We had Spirit AeroSystems and High Touch Technologies, two of the biggest businesses in the Wichita area, and many proud Kansas colleges that came out and interacted with our students,” Hannah said. “Everyone at the expo was beyond impressed.”
 
Takia Johnson, who was born with cataracts, attended Level Up for the first time this year. As an incoming high school sophomore, she was particularly interested in learning about her career options. She was happy with what she heard.
 
“I’m glad that Spirit AeroSystes was there, because I’m a total nerd about engineering, and I love math and drawing,” Takia said laughing. “The Spirit representative is going to try to give me a sneak peek at how they build everything. I would love to work at Spirit.”
 
To find out more about the Level Up Program, go online to www.envisionus.com/levelup.