Congratulations WPS Transition Students

WPS Transition Students

Veronica Santiago and Natacha Rodriguez Lebron, two WPS Transition students, stood in front of a packed room at the Northeast chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (NEAER) conference in South Portland, Maine.

They shared their stories about success when they presented with WPS professional staff- Jane Rosen, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist and Judy Freedman Fask, Transition Rehabilitation Specialist on November 18, 2016. The title of the presentation "Transition, Collaboration and Community Based Learning...putting the pieces together for success" focused on community collaborations with local college students- as learners and as teachers!

Going to present at the conference was certainly an adventure!

Initial travel plans fell through last minute and we were not sure the students would be able to get to Maine. When Jane shared this with Veronica, her reaction was surprisingly calm, but then she emphatically declared, "I’m not happy about this". It was Veronica who decided to problem solve and suggested that they could take a bus. Natacha offered, "What about Para to Maine. It is just an idea." Obviously taking a bus out of state was a new experience for both young ladies. Auntie "Titi" agreed to chaperone the young ladies to the conference. They traveled on the bus from Worcester to Boston and then boarded another bus that traveled out of state to South Portland, Maine.

Once in Maine, the students stayed at the Marriott hotel. It was very exciting!

On Friday morning, Jane, Judy, Natacha and Veronica presented to full house of 45 professionals in the field of Blindness. What was most impressive was the fact that amongst all the conference presenters, Natacha and Veronica were the ONLY student presenters. This was actually the second time Natacha and Jane presented together and a first for Veronica.   

The young ladies demonstrated incredible professionalism through their dress, their conduct and their presentation. We had video clips embedded in the PowerPoint because we were unsure if the students would feel comfortable once in front of a large crowd. There was no need on our part to be concerned! Individuals in the field commented how they (the professionals) talk ABOUT their students at conferences, and were quite impressed that these two WPS students talked ABOUT THEMSELVES at the conference. This alone had a tremendous impact on the audience.

The matter of family support deserves attention in this story as well. Veronica’s aunt (Titi) was willing to chaperone the two young ladies to this conference. It became more than simply "a trip" for her. At the end of the presentation, Auntie Titi, whose native language is Spanish, bravely stood up in front the crowd with tears of pride and joy. She commented in her limited English that she saw a side of Veronica her family never knew existed or thought possible. She now recognized what is possible and what Veronica CAN do!

This entire experience was an amazing learning opportunity for Natacha, Veronica and so many others, as well. These students learned numerous lessons: How to...

  • Problem solve
  • Plan and pack (a suitcase) for travel
  • Travel out of state utilizing the bus system
  • Develop a presentation
  • Practice presenting appropriately and comfortably
  • Present with confidence in front of an audience of professionals
  • Reflect on the experience  
  • Write Thank-You notes of appreciation and gratitude to those who made it possible:
    • Mass Commission for the Blind- Deputy Commissioner John Oliveira
    • Worcester Pubic School- Kay Seale
    • WPS Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist- Jane Rosen
    • WPS Transition Rehab Specialist-Judy Freedman Fask
    • Auntie Lilliam "Tit" Ortiz
    • WPS IA - Germania (Manny) Galicia

Natacha wrote, "I hope I have the opportunity to do this again".

Veronica wrote, "This was an experience that changed my life".

From Maine to Massachusetts...

In December, Natacha and Veronica proudly shared their experiences with family members plus college students at The College of the Holy Cross in the Spanish Community Based Learning class. They actually did the full presentation fluently in Spanish!

Natacha and Veroinca look forward to an opportunity to share their PowerPoint presentation to you! Please contact us if you are interested in hearing more.

WPS Transition students with WPS staff

Written by Judy Freedman Fask and Jane Rosen (Dec. 2016)
faskj@worc.k12.ma.us , rosenj@worc.k12.ma.us