The Summer of Occupational Exploration provided tools in the areas of entrepreneurship, chemical processes, environmental quality, electronics and robotics. 

One hundred young people from the Special Education Program and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act successfully completed the Summer of Occupational Exploration (VEO), a camp of the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration (ARV) of the Arecibo region, in coordination with Global Education Exchange Opportunities (GEEO), which allowed participants to explore their possibilities of work entrepreneurship in various areas. For three weeks, the students delved into environmental, chemical, electronic, robotic and entrepreneurial projects that opened the way to the world of possibilities they will encounter upon completion of their studies.

"We did not skimp on this project. Our goal was to provide these young people with special needs a high quality experience based on the labor demands of the moment, in which they would have the opportunity to practice their talents and knowledge in a real post-secondary transition environment with excellent teachers who are preparing the workforce of the northern area," said Odette Piñeiro Caballero, GEEO's chief executive officer, about the camp that took place at the Instituto Tecnológico de Manatí.

The educator also explained that the young people were able to go on specialized routes, with an experience adapted to their abilities.

"We covered the areas of automation, technology, cooperation, collaboration, assembly, food safety, environmental quality, chemistry, entrepreneurship, electronics, robotics and 'coding'. Participants also enjoyed other activities, such as creative writing workshops, culinary arts and theater. The goal was for students to be able to choose, give themselves permission to discover and aspire to be part of these emerging job markets in the future. We are very pleased to have designed this experience for our students and that they thoroughly enjoyed this camp, which demonstrates what can be achieved through a collaborative agreement between a public entity, the sponsorship of a public corporation with a private organization to serve populations with great needs," said the businesswoman.

VEO had the participation of 103 students between the ages of 14 and 16 from the Arecibo region (Arecibo, Barceloneta, Camuy, Ciales, Florida, Hatillo, Manatí, Morovis, Orocovis, Quebradillas, Utuado and Vega Baja). GEEO and ARV staff who were present at the closing activity of this project highlighted that the students' commitment to the experience was reflected in their attendance (92%), individual and collective development of their projects, their reflections, their dynamism and the connection with their leaders. Some of the young people expressed their levels of satisfaction in the exit tickets of each route and in the final evaluation reiterative expressions such as "I hope for the camp next year" were observed. A total of 95 students completed the final evaluation, all reporting high levels of satisfaction.

María M. Gómez García, ARV administrator, said she was very pleased with the celebration of this Summer Camp where students with disabilities from both public and private schools were impacted. "In this first project, participants were oriented on how to identify vocational interests, obtain information on careers or trades of their interest and the labor market, learn about the options of associate degree careers, high school and/or vocational/technical education courses, develop social and independent living skills for the world of work, learn what reasonable accommodations are, how they are requested during post-secondary education, among other important topics on pre-employment skills," said the head of the ARV.

Gómez García added that this effort will motivate students to implement their occupational plans and will help them develop self-knowledge, identity, creativity, independence, responsibility, physical skills, teamwork, following instructions, social skills, tolerance of criticism and problem solving, among others.

For this closing activity, the young people presented the projects they did in the different routes. The exhibition included several movable robots that were created in the robotics route, automation projects for music industries devised in the electronics route, planting of plants, such as bromeliads and short-cycle edibles, product of the environmental quality route; handmade soaps and aspirins made in the chemical processes route and new business projects that emerged in the entrepreneurship route. Among the latter projects were "Janbri", an amusement and bouncy house company; and "Healthy Coffee", an artisanal coffee producer, among others. In addition, creative masks made by the students were exhibited in the alternative theater route, in which they worked with body expression and improvisations in playful dynamics.





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