Industries for the Blind gets new buses for its youth programs

Industries for the Blind gets new buses for its youth programs
March 03
00:00 2016

By Todd Luck

The Chronicle

Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind (IFB) dedicated two new buses that will let more students who are blind and visually impaired use its services on Thursday, Feb 25.

The new buses will transport students to Tracy’s Little Red Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is  part of IFB’s A Brighter Path Foundation and houses Student Enrichment Experience (SEE) after school and summer programs for youth who are blind or visually impaired. Each bus seats up to 14 students and will let the program provide transportation for its young participants. The funding for the buses was provided by Miracles in Sight, the second largest eye bank in the country. Miracles in Sight Executive Director Dean Vavra said that it will let more students take advantage of the SEE programs.

“There’s plenty of seats available in this schoolhouse, just not enough buses to get the kids there,” said Vavra. “That is changing today.”

Among the speakers at last week’s event was Shareff Stewart, a junior at Reynolds High School who is blind.  He was among eight students who took part in the program when it began in 2007. He said it was a week filled with activities like arts and crafts, life skills and learning about each other. The program has grown and the red schoolhouse was built to house it in 2012.

Stewart is now a technology assistant at the Little Red School house, teaching computer skills to others, like how to browse the Internet. He said the buses will help his students get to his class.

“I really love supporting these kids because of the support IFB gave me,” he said.

Stewart thanked the teachers at SEE for helping students “see the world in their own way.” He said he’s learned many things from the program like doing laundry and cooking.

“I enjoy being blind, every day is an adventure,” said Stewart, who plans to go to college and eventually become a teacher for the visually impaired.

Students in the blind or visually impaired program at Sherwood Forest Elementary attended the event, enjoying some time in the Little Red Schoolhouse before taking one of the new buses back to Sherwood. Among the students who are also regulars in the SEE program, was Elisha Simmons. The fourth grader, who is blind, played the piano in a classroom at the schoolhouse after the bus dedication. He said he was glad that the buses will help kids like him get to SEE. He said the program was fun and he’d recommend it to any children who are blind or visually impaired.

“I like seeing the people here and going to places and going to cooking and playing on the playground,” said Elisha.

Jenny Viars, the youth program manager for A Brighter Path, said that the buses will solve transportation problems that have prevented some students from coming to SEE programs.

“We’re able to provide minimal transportation for a very small group of kids; having these buses is going to allow us to expand,” she said.

SEE has an after school program three days a week and a three week summer camp that includes learning things like cooking, yoga, music, computers, braille and independent living skills. There are also field trips, which the buses will be used for, like planned outings to the Winston-Salem Symphony and the Twin City Stage for a Wizard of  Oz performance, where students will use wireless headphones to listen to live descriptions of what’s happening on the stage. All SEE programs are free and are funded by donations and grants.

For more information about SEE, or to register a child in the program, contact Viars at 336- 245-5669 or email

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