News

Meet David Olson

Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

NDVS/SB Director of Technology
Not Your Stereotypical IT Guy

At sunset, David sits on a dock next to his young son who is holding a fishing line off the dock into the water. IT guys get a bad rap. They are stereotypically socially awkward, unhelpful, and smug. Fortunately, the IT guy at NDVS/SB is the exact opposite of the stereotype. Director of Technology David Olson is known for being helpful to anyone who walks through his door or calls him, usually frantically, with a technology emergency. By patiently listening and then solving the problem, he is making technology less intimidating and more accessible, something that attracted him to NDVS/SB in the first place. “At a previous job, I was able to help a professor with low vision,” David explains. “I was very inspired by him, and I was able to help him through a few items. He was a joy to work with.” When David saw the posting for NDVS/SB Director of Technology a few years ago, he thought it “was a great opportunity to help others.” And that’s just what he’s been doing since May of 2018 – helping others, whether that’s his colleagues, or the students, families, and adults we serve at NDVS/SB.

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Lessons Learned on the Road to Graduation

Wednesday, January 4, 2023 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight, Student Programming

Matthew and a fellow student stand in the dairy aisle of the grocery store. Matthew holds a gallon of milk up to the other boy while they stand in front of a cart.We periodically share a young adult's story of success. In this profile, Sheyenne High School senior Matthew Gallegos shares the lessons he’s learned from his job at the Dairy Queen, from NDVS/SB, and from his TSVI. The skills he’s learned have not only prepared him for whatever comes after graduation, but have instilled maturity and confidence, traits that are essential to any young person’s success and happiness.

“Now hiring!” “Looking for extra cash?” “Please be patient as we are short on staff.” You don’t need to go far to find signs like these today. Stores, restaurants, and other places of business are all looking for more workers. Part of this problem can be explained by the fact that teenagers are working less than in the past. But some teens want to work, and Sheyenne High School senior Matthew Gallegos is one of them. Matthew is a shift lead at Dairy Queen, where he is responsible for “providing an excellent experience to customers, making ice cream and food products, and closing the store at the end of the night,” he says. He shares that “most of my shift consists of taking customer orders, collecting payments, and assisting others in making menu items.” He also creates a position roster for his coworkers on the schedule that day. 

Matthew found a job as a high schooler for the same reason most teens get a job – for the cash. But he had to consider a few other factors before he began applying for jobs. Since he can’t drive, could he walk to it or take public transportation? What accommodations would he need to perform his duties? If customers or his coworkers had a question about his magnifier or cane, how would he politely educate them? Matthew had to consider these questions because he has glaucoma, which has rendered him legally blind since birth. He makes the most of the vision he has and says his visual impairment doesn’t impede or slow down his work at Dairy Queen at all. The only accommodation he has, he says, is occasionally using his phone’s camera to magnify the buttons on the digital register. “The buttons on the registers are rectangular and color coded against a black background, so naturally they appeal to my contrast preferences. I have memorized what each button says, so I will only pull out my phone's camera if I am unsure or if there is an update to the layout,” he explains. “Management has been wonderful in allowing me to use my phone's camera for this purpose.”

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Adjustment To Vision Loss

Wednesday, December 28, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Adult Programming News, Instruction

by Amy Osvold
Vision Rehabilitation Specialist

NDVS/SB is now offering Individual Adjustment to Vision Loss, services are a one-on-one session with a Social Worker. This may be done in-person during an Adult Week at NDVS/SB or by telephone.

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Superintendent's Scoop: Gratitude is Contagious

Monday, December 26, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Superintendent

by Paul Olson, NDVS/SB Superintendent

Gratitude is talked about a lot these days. It has been a thing for a few years to talk about it during particularly hard times, and I think that makes a lot of sense. When people start to think about what they are grateful for, they at least temporarily get their minds off of things that are difficult. That does not change the fact that many people are going through stressful times. Every person’s struggles are unique to them and some situations can truly threaten health and well-being. 

Recently many of the staff at NDVS/SB shared their gratitudes, and I found them so thoughtful and inspiring. It made me think about some of the challenges that some are going through, and they very much reinforced to me how beneficial it is to intentionally think about gratitudes. 

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Meet Laurie Westling

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

NDVS/SB Assistive Technology Specialist
Smart Phone Enthusiast, Gardener, Vikings Fan


Laurie, her husband Lee and son Eli wear Vikings gear and stand smiling in the stands of the Vikings stadium. The football field can be seen behind them.One of the many perks of working for NDVS/SB is that staff are encouraged to cross-train, continue learning, and even move into new roles if opportunities arise. “One of our best sources for filling key roles has been from within,” explains Superintendent Paul Olson. Assistive Technology Specialist Laurie Westling is one employee whose job looks very different today than it did when she was hired 17 years ago. 

Laurie was originally hired as an administrative assistant. “I primarily worked with the database, entering services and stats reported by instructional staff and assisting our network administrator who was blind,” she explains. “Over the years I learned a lot about assistive technology and how it helps so many people every day. When our network administrator retired, I knew my role would change because I wouldn’t need to be a visual assistant any longer. I was then given the opportunity to work alongside our other assistive technology staff to learn about many types of assistive technology and start working with students and adults.”  

It’s been a perfect fit for Laurie and for NDVS/SB. Paul Olson isn’t surprised. “When there are talented people that are eager to grow and take on new responsibilities, we encourage them to build new skills and fill new roles. Who better to take on the important work that we do than someone who already is dedicated and knows our mission? More often than not, this has been a huge benefit to our agency and the people we serve,” he says. Read on to learn more about Laurie.

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Take care this holiday season: Phishing emails and text messages are on the rise

Sunday, November 27, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Assistive Technology

by David Olson
NDVS/SB Information Technology

With the upcoming holidays, there is an increase in email and mobile phone scams. Scammers and hackers are calling or sending fake messages to gain information on things like passwords, account numbers, and social security numbers.  If scammers gain that information, the effects can be devastating and damaging to your accounts and credit.

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Meet Lilly Mankie

Sunday, November 13, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

NDVS/SB APH Coordinator/ Administrative Assistant
Bride-to-be, Barrel Racer, Braille Buzz Enthusiast


Lilly (right) stands next to colleague Lanna Slaby at the APH Annual Meeting in October 2022.Lilly Mankie’s job description at NDVS/SB keeps getting longer. “Since starting at NDVS/SB, I have taken on more and more tasks and am always staying busy,” Lilly says. “Busy” is an understatement. Since starting at NDVS/SB in December of 2018, Lilly’s role has grown as she has helped NDVS/SB grow. She has helped implement a new database system and an app that records providers’ statistics, and she has simplified the ordering process for American Printing House for the Blind (APH) products, all of which has made her colleagues’ lives easier, and her work a bit more complicated. Lilly doesn’t seem to mind, however. “I know that my administrative jobs are very important and keep this place running smoothly,” she says. “I also like my coworkers, so that helps!” 

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NDVS/SB Scholarship Announcement

Tuesday, November 8, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items

NDVS/SB is once again partnering with the ND Space Grant Consortium to offer a scholarship for college students who are eligible for NDVS/SB services. Up to five scholarships from a collective total of $2,500 will be awarded to students pursuing STEM with at least a 3.0 GPA.

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Gaining Ideas from IDEAS

Monday, November 7, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Student Programming

by Cindy Williams
Student Programming Coordinator

NDVS/SB has collaborated with the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium and their STEM Ambassadors for the last five years. NDSGC has provided hands-on and virtual activities for our students along with providing us with tours of their facilities and equipment on UND’s campus. They have been instrumental in bringing STEM activities to those we serve.

In July, Ken Dockter and I took part in a professional development opportunity hosted by the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium at UND’s Aerospace location on campus. It was presented by the Innovative Differentiated Exploration Activities in Space Science (IDEAS) which includes a team from South Carolina, North Carolina, and the North Dakota Space Grant Consortia. The NASA-in-the-Classroom Educator PD Workshop had a goal of encouraging collaboration between special education educators and a national network of STEM educators and NASA researchers, and our experiences during this workshop will be used to improve inclusive and accessible STEM pedagogy.

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Adult Programming

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Adult Programming News, News Event

When are the Adult Instruction Weeks coming up in 2022 – 2023 school year?  September 11-16, December 4-9, March 19-24, May 14-19, June 4-9. What happens during these weeks?  An adult who has lost vision recently, losing vision, or lost vision decades ago, can come to the school for training in the area of Orientation and Mobility, Technology, Daily Living Skills, Braille, Adjustment, Smartphone instruction, and other classes such as Recreation and Leisure, and Vocational.    

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