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A close-up of Paul, with gray hair and a gray goatee and wearing a gray polo. He is smiling at the camera. I would like to enthusiastically welcome everyone back to school for the 2023-2024 school year. The beginning of a school year can come with lots of emotions. My favorite emotions this time of year are hope and enthusiasm. I will admit my enthusiasm can ebb and flow from day to day, but I get very energized when I witness good work being done on behalf of students of all ages. Right now, we are getting lots of reminders from parents and schools getting geared up for the new year. School supplies, school safety, and school sports are all being talked about on the news. At NDVS/SB, our teachers both in Grand Forks and in our regional offices are already visiting schools, sending out special materials and attending meetings. These are all activities that we normally would talk about each Fall but perhaps we don’t always tell how NDVS/SB helps with students in college. We do serve people of all ages and we have a long tradition of being a resource and more for students with visual impairment in college. There are two recent examples of some great work our staff have done on behalf of a couple of hard-working college students to help them on their journey.

Earlier this summer we invited a young man who aspires to work in a computer science-related field in the future to come to Grand Forks for some needed help. Last year he began a course in computer programming and was able to progress to a certain point before coming to an unfortunate standstill. Doing coding as a person who is blind using screen reading software is certainly possible but there are numerous challenges to say the least. With the right coaching and with the right tools these barriers can be overcome, so our IT Director Dave proposed. That was exactly the case when this highly motivated gentleman came to stay in Grand Forks this summer for a few days and received intense customized training specific to the type of programming he had been doing. I'll suffice to say that we recently received a report from him that he has made great progress and was able to complete all of the work expected for that course. His excitement and self-report of success is an example of what energizes us and builds our enthusiasm for the work we do. It sure was a win-win. 

Another inspiring example of how our staff have helped springboard a very dedicated young woman into the program of her dreams is so exciting! This young woman who happens to be blind was accepted into a Doctoral Physical Therapy Program. Imagine the anatomical illustrations and other complex scientific content that a student must access in order to meet the program expectations. "To help them with this, NDVS/SB offered the loan of a PageBlaster embosser and Tactile Image Enhancer. At our visit, Laurie Westling set up and connected the machines in their printer room. Meanwhile, I gave the Office Manager a crash course on how to create tactile graphics. We went over making graphics for swell touch paper in Word, how to create a simple braille key in Braille Blaster, and how to use APH Firebird for embossed graphics. We also went over considerations in the planning process for graphics and a basic intro to braille.” Leslie Pederson—NDVS/SB Braille Transcriber.
There is a lot more that could be said about these two situations and our work with those students and the colleges they attend is far from over, I’m sure. For now, we gave them a good start and the hope that they will continue to be successful. At NDVS/SB we endeavor to respond to the best of our ability to requests from individuals, schools, colleges, and other organizations. We are not always successful, but we always are willing to try, and when our students have these wins we get to celebrate with them. 

Good luck to all of you (students, parents, teachers, other professionals) in whatever new challenges you have this Fall and make sure you celebrate all the wins when they happen. 

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