Webster Hosts S.O.A.R. Program

SOAR students learn basic skills at a Webster summer camp Young adults who are legally blind learn to cook, do laundry, clean house and manage money in summer residential program

ST. LOUIS (JUNE 17, 2014) -Twelve young adults who are legally blind – including many away from home for the first time -- are participating in a summer residential program at Webster University to learn to live independently, seek competitive employment and attend college or vocational training programs.

The Summer Orientation & Mobility and Adapted Living Resource program (S.O.A.R.) administered by Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis is now in session in the University’s resident hall apartments.

Participants are undergoing three weeks of intense training in adapted living techniques that include cooking, kitchen management, self-care, clothing management, money management, home maintenance and sex education.

S.O.A.R. participant Marcus Boyer, who attended the program last year and is back this year, says, “I now know what I have to do to become more independent to live my life.”

Nineteen specialists from Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis are working in the day and night-time program, which includes mock employment interviews, skills for campus navigation, community access, public transportation, plus a dating seminar weekend. The specialists include Adapted Living Specialists, Orientation & Mobility Instructors and college-age peers.

S.O.A.R. Program Director Kevin Hollinger says, “Our emphasis on independence also fosters expectations for independent travel skills, interpersonal relationships, post-secondary transition, organizational skills and career exploration.”  A number of S.O.A.R. graduates from previous years are now working in good jobs or as interns for St. Louis-based companies such as Nestle-Purina and the St. Louis Community Credit Union, says Hollinger.

“Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis provides continuing opportunities for participant and family training and follow-up consultations as part of the Lighthouse commitment to S.O.A.R. program success,” says Hollinger. “Our S.O.A.R. graduates will continue to build awareness of skill sets needed to live independently while pursuing educational, career and family interests.”  

The Lighthouse rents apartments, residential halls and common areas from Webster University to administer the three-week S.O.A.R. program, which the Lighthouse established in 2007. Katie Knetzer, director of Webster’s University Center, says, “The Lighthouse has always been a delight to work with, and is very good at communicating with us.”

Webster has actively worked to serve the needs of visually impaired students for 75 years. In 1939, Webster’s first blind student, Genevieve Hogan, graduated with a bachelor's of philosophy in English and French. At the time, the University was noted in the community for being the first local higher education institution to provide Braille books for its students and to include an entire Braille section in the library. 

The S.O.A.R. program began June 8 and continues through June 28, 2014. Nearly 70 percent of people who are blind are not employed.  S.O.A.R. helps change this scenario for the better by building skill sets needed to live independently while encouraging the pursuit of educational, career and family interests. See the Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis website at http://www.lhbindustries.com.