Education and Community Service
A friendly competition sparks among the trio of teen students assembling hundreds of essential materials and medical kits at Empath Health. Each girl takes pride in completing as many as they can, working together and helping our organization.
The group performed the various projects and learned about our network of care from our staff as part of a nine-day summer transition program of Lighthouse of Pinellas, a Largo-based nonprofit providing rehabilitation training for blind and visually-impaired residents in Pinellas County. The summer and year-round transition programs prepare individuals, ages 14 to 22, to live independently and make smooth transitions into the workforce, post-secondary education or training.
“I enjoy working. It’s my duty,” said Jasmine Pate, a longtime Lighthouse participant serving alongside participants Charane Metcalf and Lydia Hord. Pate expressed an interest in medicine but an uncertainty about her ultimate career path. One thing for sure, she plans to do more volunteering in her future.
The summer programs feature paid work experiences, such as Empath Health, funded by the Florida Division of Blind Services, along with a variety of educational field trips. This summer, the girls visited MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) partaking in a ropes course, zip-lining and other activities and USF (University of South Florida) Tampa campus exploring dorm and college life.
Through her involvement in the programs, Pate has gained many skills that have boosted her self-confidence. “When I first came to Lighthouse I was in middle school. They help us develop interview and public speaking skills. I did a speech and now I feel I can go up there (the program’s end-of-the-year reception) and talk about anything,” Pate said.
Jill Pfluke, the girls’ Lighthouse teacher and job coach, joined them each day. She has taught in several places for nearly 34 years, including many years with Lighthouse’s programs and summer camps. Her enlightening time in undergrad school assisting two blind veteran students with their schoolwork led to her career in vision impairment.
Coming here to work was valuable to the group, Pfluke shared. “We’re grateful to be here. We expose them to experiences they otherwise might not have, give them a glimpse into what it’s like to be on their own and encourage them to achieve their goals.”
The power of Lighthouse is not only about preparation for life ahead but the camaraderie and support within the groups, Pfluke explained. “We teach groups about job readiness, mobility, cooking, cleaning, self-advocacy and more. It’s important for them to have peers with the same obstacles as well as the accomplishments they can celebrate and share. Students who have graduated from our programs have come back to speak about what college is like. They are looked at as role models.”
Aspirations and Family
This was Metcalf’s first year in the summer and year-round programs. She has no doubt about her talents and future ambitions. “I’d like to do any career in the world of arts. Without the arts, we’d be looking at nothing. I’m quite the artist. I do 3-D art, orchestra, production, drama, acting, fashion and design. I’ve played instruments since I was six. I learn a new one each year,” Metcalf said.
She treasures her relationships at Lighthouse. “We all click very well. We are a family,” she said.
Help Support – Be a Volunteer
Volunteers are vital to our mission and right now our needs are growing. You can help make a difference doing:
Ready to get started? Fill out our registration form to attend an orientation training. Or to speak with volunteer services, submit this contact form and they’ll give you a call or you can call them at (727) 523-3440.