College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan-March 2014 > Partnership announced between Penn State and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

Partnership announced between Penn State and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

A partnership was announced between the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Office of Vocational Rehabilitation's Bureau and Visual Services and Penn State to host the Summer Academy.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – On April 10 the announcement was made for the partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Office of Vocational Rehabilitation’s Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (OVR) and Penn State to host the Summer Academy. The academy, in partnership with Penn State and the PA Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN), is a program for blind or visually impaired students who are transitioning to a college setting. The three-week experience will be held July 13-August 1 at no cost to qualifying students.

“That’s really what we're talking about, making a real life practical connections and skill development for students so that they succeed. We want them to succeed. We want them to transition into a job eventually and have gainful employment and be valued in the community,” said Steve Suroviec, a student who graduated from the Summer Academy and now a 2014 academy counselor.

“It's also a win I think for the general student body of Penn State. Having, seeing and making friends with and having the opportunity to engage and become friends with and value people with disabilities is such a big deal to me and I think when it comes right down to it Penn State's student body at large is going to be a winner here.”

This summer will be the first time Penn State hosts the Summer Academy. At the academy students will live in a Penn State dormitory, sharing a room with another student, and participating in daily living activities, travel skills, self-advocacy and networking skills, career awareness, social skills and enhancing access through technology.

Carol Mackel, director of the OVR’s Hiram G. Andrews Center in Johnstown, felt that new partnership was the logical step for the Summer Academy. “Penn State is just a natural next level progression and it's going to be a great experience for the students and for all of you… I believe that you will provide an opportunity to have this wonderful program move forward,” she said.

Suroviec agreed too, stating, “As the director of OVR I can’t' tell you how important it is to have partnerships and collaboration with our partners. We have a great relationship with Penn State University mainly because of our the master's program they have for VR counseling …And so when this opportunity really presented itself to collaborate on the Summer Academy it just seemed like a natural progression.”

But mostly there was the talk of change and progress for students entering a college environment and the benefits of Summer Academy. David DiNoterrus as the director of the Bureau of the Blind and Visual Services was focused on what this partnership means for the students and what they will get out of the program. He mentioned that hopefully for students this means learning about access, transportation, daily living and literacy.

“This program is to help people prepare for college. But really what we're doing is we're preparing people to go to work. We desire to inspire people to be the best that they can be,” said DiNoterrus.

The partnership overall was deemed a natural step for the two institutions. As Soviec said, "It's a natural progression for this program, a traditional large campus in a community where students are just going to have great access to learning opportunities and that's really what we're talking about. You know at OVR our main mission is providing opportunity for people with disabilities to maintain and secure employment independence. That's what we're all about.”