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Disruption-Loss-Adaptation-Gratefulness…Reflections on My First Month as CEO

I really thought my first CEO article would reflect a glamorous month of my professional coming out party. I envisioned tales of flattering introductions by an articulate and esteemed predecessor to the who’s who in the educational and philanthropic worlds. I expected to see first-hand the finished exhibitions, all-star resume accomplishments and celebrated trophies of JSF investments. I’d travel North America for a few weeks and return energized and inspired to dive into a month of professional development. I just knew these experiences would prepare me to lead and inspire a gifted staff.

Most of this happened, just not how I thought it would. I’m confident that none of us had the March 2020 we were planning for. There would be no travel. I’d spend much of my time glued to a 13-inch laptop monitor, fumbling my way around new technology that included a persistent visual of what my extended social distancing from my barber looked like.

My predecessor, Malcolm Macleod, and I would embark on reaching out to every grantee through video conferencing. Our meetings would typically last for 30 minutes and most were back to back to back. I would meet or be reintroduced to many of the rock stars in the educational and philanthropic worlds. Our meetings did not take place in prestigious office spaces, adorned with organizational accomplishments. Most conversations were held in living rooms, over kitchen tables, and a few in the front seats of automobiles.

The actual experience I’ve had in my first 30 days on staff, was far better than the glamorous month I had envisioned. The COVID-19 Crisis offered a candid look into the lives and callings of JSF grantee partners. These partners were sober in their assessment of the COVID-19 crisis, painfully aware of the havoc and change it would likely bring, but stubbornly resolved to serve their students and vigorously pursue their mission.

Most of our conversations revolved around some common themes:

Disruption—The COVID-19 crisis had turned their lives upside down. The means of their work had been changed dramatically, but the ends of that work had not. They remained staunch advocates for their organizations and the students they serve.

Loss—This crisis exacted a real loss -losses that included time with students, celebratory graduation ceremonies, refunded revenues, muted philanthropic giving from their donor bases, canceled fund raisers, and separation from colleagues, friends and family.

Adaptation—All of them were continuing to adapt to the changes around them. From their communication means to the schedules they held.

Resolve to be better—“We won’t waste this crisis.”

Optimism—I suppose this is a prerequisite to be an educator, advocate or philanthropist. Most grantees felt the crisis would yield fruit in their organizations due to organizational efficiencies forced upon them in the crisis. Some viewed the crisis as an opportunity thrust upon them to reinvent themselves or their approach.

Gratefulness—Our inquiries were met with such a permeating attitude of gratefulness. They all deeply appreciated the intentional outreach of JSF. It was very obvious to me their gratefulness resonated from the experience of many years with JSF staff, consultants and Board.

The month of March has ended. It has not been glamorous, but it has been remarkable. A crisis will often strip away the glamorous and reveal the underlying character and qualities of organizations and people. The staff I intended to inspire has inspired me with their own willingness to adapt and resolve to serve. The themes that resonated through the conversations with grantees have been echoed in correspondence with JSF staff, Board and consultants. I have learned a lot and been reminded of more. I’ve been emboldened to lead by the gracious deference and encouragement of our Chairman. I am so very grateful for my first 30 days on staff at JSF.

Robert A. Krause is an entrepreneur and business consultant to the Central Florida agricultural industry. He has served as a member of the JSF Board of Directors since 2013, most recently as the Foundation’s Treasurer. He recently was named JSF’s new CEO.

American Indigenous Business Leaders Look to Raise $150,000 to Create Care Packages for Elders in the Community

Johnson Scholarship Foundation, a supporter of the American Indigenous Business Leaders, is glad to share AIBL’s efforts to support the communities of Indigenous Peoples during this uncertain time.

Donations for Food, Cleaning Products for Seniors Accepted Now at AIBL.org

PHOENIX – Tribal communities have long looked to their elders to pass along wisdom, customs and traditions, and now, future business leaders from across the nation are banding together in support of their senior members.

American Indigenous Business Leaders (AIBL), a national nonprofit with more than 500 active chapters spanning 20 states, has a lengthy history of empowering and supporting Indigenous business students from across the United States. In the wake of recent events, the organization is temporarily shifting its focus from supporting students to supporting seniors, many of whom are suddenly facing exacerbated health issues, a lack of transportation to and from stores, medical services, and similar hardships.

To do so, AIBL has launched a campaign to create Senior Citizen Support Care Packages and is looking to raise $150,000 to put toward the effort. AIBL chapters from across the nation will then use the funds raised to create care packages valued at either $100 or $50 apiece, with $100 packages containing food and cleaning essentials (think paper products, baby wipes and other tough-to-find items), and $50 packages containing food, exclusively.

“In tribal communities, younger members have always looked to their elders as sources of respect and leadership – they have an endless amount of admiration for those who came before them and feel a responsibility to care for them,” said AIBL’s Board Chairman Dave Archambault Sr. “The AIBL community is one that recognizes the evolving needs of senior citizens and is ready to step up and help support those who have long done the same for their families and communities. We are asking people to help, knowing that good things will come to them for their generosity.”

Once care packages are ready for distribution, AIBL members will deliver them directly to the recipients’ doorsteps to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“Some of these recipients simply don’t have a way to get around, or have health issues at play that make it more difficult for them to visit public places like grocery stores,” said AIBL Executive Director Prairie Bighorn-Blount. “Others don’t have any local family members who can help. We’re here to step in and help ensure that no one goes without essential items during this time of crisis.”

AIBL is currently accepting donations of any size to help further the effort and reach even more senior citizens across Arizona and the nation. To donate to the cause or learn more about the organization, visit AIBL.org.

Tips for Learning Online

This content was republished with permission from the Florida State University Tips for Learning Online webpage at https://distance.fsu.edu/tips-learning-online and based on an adaption of original content 1) by Glenn Pillsbury at Stanislaus State, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at https://www.csustan.edu/teach-online/online-readiness-self-assessment and 2) from Penn State University’s Online Readiness Questionnaire, which was also published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license at http://tutorials.istudy.psu.edu/learningonline/learningonline2.html.

While this document contains links to resources at FSU, students may want to seek out similar resources at their own university.

Online learning offers a level of flexibility and convenience that a classroom environment can’t. It’s also a very different experience than traditional, face-to-face learning. What’s required of you will differ than what’s required of on-campus students. Learning online will take motivation, self-direction, and a realistic knowledge of your personal learning preferences and abilities. To thrive online, it’s important you know what’s expected and what it takes to succeed.

Self-Direction | Being proactive is key to successful online learning. You need to be able to solve problems and reach out for help when you need it. It’s up to you to set goals and deadlines for yourself, developing strategies that help you stay on task and avoid distractions while studying.

Learning Preferences | Do you retain information well by reading it, or do you do better if you hear it spoken directly to you? Do you rely on face-to-face interaction with peers or your instructor to learn well? In an online course, you’ll need to learn from a variety of media, like podcasts, videos, and conferencing. You’ll also need to be comfortable reading and studying independently. Because you won’t be interacting with classmates and your instructor face-to-face, be prepared to dialogue through email, chats, and online discussions. These are key to staying connected and performing well in an online course.

Study Habits | Good study habits are essential to success online. Set aside a space where you can study without distraction, and expect to dedicate from 7-12 hours a week for one online course. It takes planning and good time management to make sure work is completed by the deadline. Have a way of tracking assignments and due dates, and when you have questions, be willing to contact classmates and instructors. Make use of available study resources like the FSU Academic Center for Excellence which provides a wide range of study tools and tips and can help you design a study plan based on your academic goals.

 Writing Skills | Writing skills are essential to learning online, and it’s important that you’re able to express yourself using formal grammar and spelling. Brush up on skills before you start an online course. Once you’re in your course, take advantage of our online tutoring resources, like the RWC-Online, FSU’s online reading-writing center.

Technical Skills | It’s important you have experience using a computer and common software programs for email, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. You’ll also need to be comfortable conducting internet searches, downloading files, installing software, and adjusting settings on your computer. Be sure to have a plan in case your computer or internet connection fail, and be sure to back up your work regularly.

Hardware and Software| Make sure your computer and operating system are as up-to-date as possible (less than 3 years old), with a stable, high-speed internet connection and virus protection software. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are the recommended browsers for FSU’s online courses. To optimize your learning experience, we also recommend you have headphones, a microphone, and a webcam. Make use of the myFSUVLab which provides FSU students free, 24/7 web access to over 30 common and specialty software applications. 

Teleservices: Making Listening and Spoken Language Services More Accessible to Families

Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech provides children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the listening, learning and spoken language skills they need to succeed. Annually, nearly 1,000 children and their families benefit from programs and services at locations throughout the East Coast. But our reach goes beyond our physical locations.

Clarke’s tVISIT (teleservices Virtual Intervention Services for Infants and Toddlers) Program makes it possible for families to receive life-changing services from teachers of the deaf, speech-language pathologists and early childhood specialists—at home.

Young girl in red dress

This has been a game changer for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, like six-year-old Alison. Her mom, Sara, who struggled to find local listening and spoken language support, explains:

“Clarke has shown us that with hard work and access to resources, children can excel in listening and spoken language. Clarke came into our home weekly via teleservices from the time Alison was implanted [with cochlear implants] until she was three years old. Clarke has been such an integral part of our journey and Alison’s success.”

Sara is not alone in her experience: 97 percent of caregivers in Clarke’s teleservices program say it makes Clarke services more accessible to their family, and 93 percent report it has increased their confidence in their ability to help their child.

“Clarke has shown us that with hard work and access to resources, children who are deaf or hard of hearing can excel in listening and spoken language,” shares Sara. “They can be mainstreamed and learn alongside their hearing peers. Our children are simply differently abled, not disabled.”

Throughout their tVISIT sessions, Alison and her family worked with Jeana Novak, MA, MED, LSLS Cert AVEd, Coordinator of the Early Intervention Program at Clarke Philadelphia, who is shown in the photo above.

“Miss Jeana was able to model strategies for us in the beginning to use in everyday life,” notes Sara. “She encouraged us when progress seemed slow and celebrated with us when new milestones were reached. As Alison began to excel with her implants, Miss Jeana knew how to challenge her without frustrating her.”

Today, Alison loves playing t-ball and doing cartwheels. She is proudly attending a mainstream school and dreams of being a “mommy construction worker” when she grows up!

From July 2018 through June 2019, Clarke led more than 1,500 tVISIT sessions with families. This broad reach and progress like Alison’s is not possible without support from donors and funders like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. This funding is vital in helping Clarke professionals provide services to more families.

Cindy Goldberg is the Chief Development Officer for Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. She’s dedicated her career to helping children and communities thrive through strategic fundraising efforts. 

We All Contribute to Mentoring and Caring for Students

This article first appeared on the website of the Center for First-Generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the Suder Foundation.

 

Working with students who are first in their families to attend college is a privilege. I have been one of these fortunate individuals for nearly 14 years at the University of Florida. I believe every college and university should have full-time professionals, in student affairs or elsewhere, dedicated to advancing access and success for this underserved population.

Beyond those of us with formal student affairs training, there are a myriad of campus professionals who can and do support first-generation students. I had the honor of sitting down with two such professionals at UF, one a custodial associate director and the other, an assistant professor. I doubt the two would ever have crossed professional paths had it not been for this conversation. Something special happened during that hour over coffee. They revealed important insight about the linkage of passion and action. I offer edited excerpts from our conversation to encourage you to expand your view of what it means to maximize employee talent to achieve what we’re all ultimately here to do – mentor and care for students.

Tanya Hughes, Associate Director, Building Services: There’s not a check-box on my job description that says I need to mentor students. But so much of my job is mentoring students. Nobody wants to do the hard work that we do: clean toilets, scrub floors, wash windows. But our work is student success. Clean spaces promote learning and achievement. I also empower my team to bond with students. They know how to refer to resources when we sense students are struggling. Parents trust us to keep an eye on their kids and we take that responsibility seriously. Yes, we’re here to clean, but we’re also here to connect and care for students. Not everyone on campus understands the vital role we play in student success, but I do and my team does. We are humble; we don’t boast. But I feel pretty sure that my custodial team has saved student lives. I definitely know we’ve impacted them. That’s what matters.

Dr. Jaime Ruiz, Assistant Professor, Computer & Information Science & Engineering: I agree with Tanya; I love mentoring students. I also feel fortunate that my department supports me in this endeavor. In higher education, “doing diversity work” is talked about as important, but sometimes it’s all lip service, and action rarely or never happens. In my department, diversity work isn’t merely lip service; we take action.

Dr. Jaime Ruiz, third from left, with his research team
Dr. Jaime Ruiz, third from left, with his research team

I hire only first-generation students to work in my research lab. They are incredibly bright students who struggle at first with imposter syndrome (the feeling that they’re not as competent as others perceive them to be) but the more success they experience and the more rapport we build, they thrive. I enjoy modeling for them the importance of striking a balance in college between having a good time and focusing on their studies. I wish some of my colleagues were able to strike a balance for themselves. It’s sad to me that according to research and my own observations, job satisfaction diminishes after a faculty member earns tenure. Mentoring students is the most satisfying part of my job and as I actively work towards tenure myself, I model and remind myself of that important balance. I try to live what I teach.

Jaime: I learned about UF’s commitment to first-generation students when I attended New Faculty Orientation in 2016. When I decided I’d hire only first-generation students in my lab, not only was I overwhelmed by the number of students interested in the positions, I was also overwhelmed by how to decide among so many outstanding, high-quality students. I had the expectation that first-generation students would be strong students. However, the applications didn’t just represent strong students but some of the best students UF has to offer. Knowing I had only two positions, I immediately began sharing the applications with colleagues in hopes that I could place more students with research mentors.

Tanya Hughes with a staff member.
Tanya Hughes with a staff member.

As a faculty member, I realize some first-generation students may be intimidated initially but with our monthly social activities and the way I try to empower them [in my lab], I think they quickly come to see that I’m in their corner. I have provided first-generation students with research opportunities, and they have helped me advance my research.

Tanya: I have so much passion for custodial work, and it’s important to me that our halls are clean for students and their families. I sent my son to college and I fought the urge to scrub his room and bathroom. You either have a passion, or you don’t. As a supervisor for the past few decades, I seek to hire those that display a passion for this work.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Building a university culture of mentoring and supporting students should encourage all professionals, no matter their role, to infuse passion for students into their work. Maybe we need teams of professionals dedicated to talent management and student success who create engaging opportunities to build this campus-wide culture. Maybe we need to listen more deeply to students and consider their holistic experience as a student on our campus. Perhaps just talking to talented colleagues who “get it” like Tanya and Jaime are a start. When we come together, sometimes over coffee, it’s amazing how we’re reminded of the tremendous impact that we can achieve together. I’m proud to work in concert with both Tanya and Jaime, as well as many others at the University of Florida for whose university contributions and passion for students are one in the same. Go Gators!

To learn more about first-generation student initiatives at UF, visit: firstgeneration.ufsa.ufl.edu/.

Dr. Leslie Pendleton is the Senior Director of the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program in the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Florida. During her tenure at UF, Leslie has led the effort to champion first-generation, low-income college students and in 2009, was named the inaugural director of the now nationally-recognized MFOS program. 

Striking Out Stigma – Seeing Learning Disabilities as Simple Learning Differences

Middle school is often a time of exploring and expressing one’s individuality and autonomy. However, peers, teachers, and families begin playing a pivotal role in identity development. For students who learn differently, social pressures are often compounded by a sense of isolation resulting from stigma. The stigma surrounding learning disabilities and attention disorders can keep many students from seeking the tools they need to be successful.

Ryan Blackwell wearing Eye To Eye shirt

Ryan, a current high schooler at AIM Academy, recounted his middle school struggles with ADHD. He found it impossible to keep up.

 “It was in fourth-grade that I realized that something wasn’t right,” Ryan shared. “I would get assignments, and I would just leave them for weeks because I didn’t understand and I didn’t want to go ask my teachers for help.”

 Even though his grades were slipping dramatically, Ryan was still too embarrassed to ask for help. Ryan’s uneasiness about reaching out came from misconceptions that students who learn differently are often confronted with.

Research measuring public perceptions of learning differences revealed that half of the general population, including a third of educators, believe that learning disabilities are actually laziness (Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications, 2010). Several more studies took those perceptions a step further and demonstrated that the stigma associated with learning disabilities and attention disorders adversely affects educational expectations, academic outcomes, and emotional wellbeing (Crosnoe, Riegle-Crumb, & Muller, 2007; Shifrer, 2013; Al-Yagon, 2015; Feurer & Andrews, 2009; Lackaye, Margalit, Ziv, & Ziman, 2006; Maag & Behrens, 1989; Margalit, 1991; Margalit & Raviv, 1984; Wiener & Daniels, 2016).

When Ryan entered AIM Academy, he discovered Eye to Eye – a mentoring program working to eliminate the stigma of learning disabilities and attention disorders by reframing and celebrating them instead as learning differences. The program pairs students who learn differently in middle school with their high school and college-aged counterparts. Ryan was hesitant to join.

“I was like, ‘I can’t do that,’ because for some reason I couldn’t see myself impacting kids’ lives.” Despite his doubts, Ryan gave mentoring a shot.

“A lot of the kids that I would mentor suffered bullying because of their [learning disabilities] and ADHD. They were bullied a lot for the fact that they didn’t learn like everybody else, that they couldn’t interact the same way, and that they couldn’t impact the classroom and the atmosphere that’s in that classroom.”

He decided to share his own story with the mentees and become a shoulder for them to lean on.

Three students wearing Eye To Eye shirts

“I wasn’t able to see it at first, but every time they’d see me the next week they’d say two words: ‘thank you.’ I would think, ‘Thank you? I didn’t do anything,'” he said, recalling his surprise at their gratitude.

However, his school chapter advisor assured him the difference he made was immeasurable. For children and adults who learn differently, the path towards self-acceptance starts with breaking stigma at the individual level. Once someone knows they are in the company of another person who learns differently, they can begin to break down their self-stigma and share their own experiences with others. And when someone shares their story, they become empowered. Empowered individuals inspire positive feedback, and that feedback fosters a supportive community.

Ryan admitted, “When that kid just kept saying thank you, I found myself going home and crying because there is a greater community even outside of the one that we have at Eye to Eye.”

This month, Eye to Eye is celebrating “Strike Out Stigmonth.” The month-long friendly competition between Eye to Eye chapters nationwide is designed to spread awareness, strengthen bonds between mentors and mentees, and connect participants to the local and national Eye to Eye community of supporters and allies. Follow Eye to Eye on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to view the stigma-busting competition. To learn more about Eye to Eye, please visit www.eyetoeyenational.org.

David Flink is a social movement leader on the front lines of the learning rights movement. He imagines a world where one day all learners will be seen, heard and valued. Being diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD at a young age, he later committed his life to students with learning differences. He serves as Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of Eye to Eye.

FAMU’s CeDAR Office Empowers Students with Disabilities to Take Charge of Their Education

The following item first appeared in The Famuan.

The Center for Disability Access and Resources (CeDAR) is positioned to aid students with learning, psychological and physical disabilities.

CeDAR is a resource center to provide support-programs and reasonable accommodations to students who seek help to broaden their skills and to gain personal, academic and professional development.

There are currently more than 600 students who are registered with the CeDAR office. The center administers service to the main campus as well as satellite campuses.

The program director, Deborah Sullivan, is an advocate for students.

“Our mission is to provide enriching support programs, services and reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. We also try to foster a sense of empowerment by educating them about their legal rights and responsibilities. We want them to make informed choices, be critical thinkers and self-advocate, and then we want to make sure our students have the same access to programs, opportunities and activities available to any other student at Florida A&M University,” she said.

I’m a student who was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and a learning disability for math. I never was incapable of learning material that other students had learned, I just tend to learn, process and perform at my own gradual pace, as opposed to the average student who performs at a faster rate.

A-Chai'a Jackson
A-Chai’a Jackson

Tia Huie, a registered CeDAR student and work-study facilitator at the center, shared her perspective.

“I feel like the center has an impact on me because, at first, I was not a CeDAR student. You have those students who have learning disabilities and when you think about how hard and time-consuming college work can be, to have a place that helps them through the process is empowering,” she said.

This is inclusive too: extra time on tests, transport mobility, different testing locations, tape recordings, tutoring and other support services.

The CeDAR office has done a persistent, commendable job in assisting me; from providing a safe space, extra time on tests, free printing, computer usage, and accommodating me with letters to inform my professors about my academic needs.

The program outreach coordinator, Joshua Lowder, gave more insight on what his duties are as it pertains to assisting registered CeDAR students.

“I work here as the program outreach coordinator, and what I do is work with incoming freshmen and also work with sophomores that are here from the College Study Skills Institute (CSSI), and how I help them is I plan different activities and also help plan things around what CeDAR does, in terms of student game nights or student engagement and I try to also work on community pieces to help us bridge the gap and let people know we are here at the university to help students who may have learning, physical, psychological, cognitive or mental disabilities,” he said.

A-Chai’a Jackson of Bushnell, Florida, is a third-year broadcast journalism major at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). He is a registered CeDAR student with a learning disability who serves as Mr. Transfer Student Association (TSA), a staff writer for the FAMUAN and a staff writer and copy editor for FAMU Journey Magazine.

New Name, Same Career Focus for Program Preparing Visually Impaired Students for Workforce

As the grant writer at VIA, formerly Olmsted Center for Sight, I know that our greatest reward comes from helping people achieve independent, prosperous lives. Partners like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation have helped us make this a reality for nearly 700 graduates of our vocational training program formerly known as the Statler Center.

In our 20th year of providing career training for blind, visually or otherwise disabled students from across the U.S., VIA helps our students achieve financial independence by offering comprehensive job training in hospitality, food preparation, customer service, telecommunications, and general business fundamentals through both face-to-face and online classes. Through this training, graduates can embark on long-lasting, rewarding careers that empower them to live independently and experience meaningful career success.

Consider the recent success of a Johnson Scholarship recipient, Rebecca Grayson of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both blind and dyslexic, Rebecca became an online student in her late 20s. As part of her oral communication training, Rebecca had to pick a job posting and practice interviewing for the position. Rebecca did so well in her mock interview that she decided to take the plunge and actually interview for the job. She was offered the position and began work as a doctor’s office assistant.

Statler Center staff member Ray Zylinski teaches Job Access With Speech (JAWS) to a blind student from New York.
Statler Center staff member Ray Zylinski teaches Job Access With Speech (JAWS) to a blind student from New York.

Rebecca loves her job and is thankful for the online class that gave her the skills and confidence to become ready to work. As she recently told us, “I am doing great and am really enjoying my job. Thank you again to the Statler Center and Johnson Scholarship for this opportunity!”

Job placement is the primary means by which we measure program success. Nationally, approximately three-quarters of the blind and visually impaired are unemployed, earning two-thirds less on average compared to their non-disabled co-workers. In contrast, approximately three-quarters of VIA’s nearly 700 graduates are currently employed with an average starting wage of $12.68 per hour, significantly higher than the federal minimum wage.

To prepare our students to be successful in their job search and placement journey, we emphasize that investing the right amount of time, self-reflection, and energy into a job search is essential to find a rewarding job. We tell students that each person is a unique puzzle piece. The sides of your puzzle piece are your individual qualifications, skills, strengths, coupled with your ideal location, hours, schedule, and work setting. For you to be successful at work, the company culture must fit you. Past experiences can help you figure what you like and why, and just as importantly what you DON’T like and why. Not everyone is perfect for every job. If you hate being outside and sweating, well then, working in landscaping is definitely not the right job for you. But we all belong somewhere. Once you are honest with yourself about your skills, strengths, and qualifications, you need to find that puzzle looking for one special unique missing puzzle piece – YOU!

Interviews are your first face-to-face experience with a company, and it is true – You only have one chance to make a first impression! Almost all communication (93%) is nonverbal so your gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, and posture are often more important than what you say. The key to answering those difficult interview questions is to positively promote yourself. You need to reframe your answers into “I can if” statements. This reframing builds confidence, which all job seekers need, but especially job seekers with disabilities.

Once offered the job, we teach job seekers how to discuss accommodations and self-advocate. We teach our students to say “My disability is NOT a weakness.” A screen reader is not different than reading glasses used by other applicants. It’s simply a tool that you need for success at work. Working closely with applicants and companies, we help them to understand reasonable accommodations and negotiate logistics like who will cover the cost, how long it will take to install, who installs it, and what is looks like, among other things. Once employers become familiar with the accommodations that our graduates need for success, they are comfortable and ready to get their new employees on board.

By funding education, peer support, on-the-job work experience, access to assistive technology, vocational rehabilitation services, and mentoring, Johnson Scholarship Foundation is giving VIA graduates the skills to succeed!

Becky Landy is a grant writer who comes to VIA with a broad background at not-for-profits, higher education, and corporate marketing. She has taught business communication at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. She has an undergraduate degree from Colgate University and an MBA from Clarkson University. She is a passionate writer who enjoys helping the blind and visually impaired start on their journey to financial independence and a fulfilling life.

Robert A. Krause Named New CEO of Johnson Scholarship Foundation

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation has named entrepreneur Robert A. Krause the Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, effective May 1. He was selected after a national search for the successor to R. Malcolm Macleod, who is retiring from the position.