“Envision has done so much for me, it’s hard to put into words. I feel like without the programs and services that are offered, I wouldn’t be nearly as confident in my abilities as I am now."
Rich Yamamoto has been involved in Envision community programs since the age of three after being diagnosed at birth with Norrie Disease, a degenerative genetic condition which causes blindness immediately or soon after birth in males. He originally learned about Envision through his mom, Jennifer Bishop, who was an Assistive Technology Trainer for Envision at the time.
He was then introduced to Heather’s Camp, an annual Envision summer camp for children ages 7-18 who are blind or visually impaired and attended camp for the first time at four years old. “At Heather's Camp, I’ve gotten to make everlasting friendships and connections with fellow campers and many counselors along the way. I’ve been attending for so many years, I’ve lost track now. It holds a special place in my heart,” said Yamamoto.
While attending middle school in Andover, KS, Yamamoto attended the Envision Level Up Program for the first time. Through the assistive technology training offered through the program, he was able to learn many skills that helped him to be successful in the classroom. He continued attending Level Up every year, all the way through middle school and high school. Many of the leadership opportunities that were presented to him throughout the program helped him grow in not only confidence but advocacy, as he pushed to be included in his high school choir after he was originally denied because of his visual impairment. He continued on, getting involved in sports and events in his community.
“I think that the Level Up program has really helped me network with people in the community in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to if I hadn’t attended,” said Yamamoto.
After completing the Level Up Program through his senior year of high school, Rich was then asked to come back and be a mentor for the middle school program by Hannah Christenson, Director of Community Programs for Envision. Through mentoring, Rich discovered that while he had a passion for technology, he was even more passionate about teaching.
“Rich continued to join us year after year as a mentor. Each year, he learned something new and offered assistance to our staff with suggestions and insight from a student perspective,” said Christenson. “He suggested and initiated our Level Up Student Advisory Board, where he and several of our other Career Service Mentors met regularly to discuss topics related to curriculum, share information about new apps and technology and also offer constructive feedback to our team about schedules and sessions for our summer programs, which is essential for us to continue to improve our computer programming offerings. We could not be more proud of the role we have had in Rich’s life and the impact that he has had on our Level Up Program.”
“Envision has done so much for me, it’s hard to put into words. I feel like without the programs and services that are offered, I wouldn’t be nearly as confident in my abilities as I am now,” said Yamamoto. Rich is currently in his third year of school at Kansas City Kansas Community College and is pursuing a degree in special education to be a teacher of students with visual impairments (TSVI).