Tyreke Keene

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VIA Students Say Thank You
Thank You. Two simple words that mean so much. Visually Impaired Advancement (VIA) in Buffalo, NY has provided support and education for the blind and people with vision loss. VIA’s students, who go through vigorous workforce and vocational training, appreciate the assistance they receive.

Below are two letters from VIA students.

Dear Funder,
Hi, I want to tell you about myself and thank you for helping me. My name is Adam Willis, and I am 35 years old and am totally blind. I was 28 weeks premature and born weighing only 1 pound 4 ounces. I was given too much oxygen at birth and lost all my vision. Even completely blind, I grew up working as a logger operating machines because my father’s job was a logger.
I came to NY from St. Louis Missouri (with my beautiful wife) because the services for blind people are not very good. Before I came here, I never held a permanent job in a competitive employment setting before.
My counselor referred me to VIA’s training program, and I was taught what to do for a work experience. I have been told I have a very positive, can-do attitude. I was willing to try any job that anyone felt comfortable to give me and it turns out there was a need for a dishwasher at the Applebee’s. The General Manager Jim approved working with VIA and set me up. The kitchen manager Garrett oversaw my training, and I will admit, things were a little rocky at first; nobody at Applebee’s had ever been exposed to someone totally blind- let alone worked with someone blind.
There was a steep learning curve for all involved. Luckily, Jill my instructor at VIA was able to step in and clear up the miscommunications; she explained some very basic blind culture things that Jim and Garrett had never considered before like my ears are my eyes so when the music in the kitchen is blasting, it makes it harder for me to know where things are. She explained to Jim that Adam that I might not have everyone’s voice memorized right away (but I soon would) so just say, “Hey Adam, it’s Jim. I put a plate down on the table for you to wash” so I knows who is talking to me and what they want me to do.
These extremely small things completely changed the way we all worked together. I would say the most significant thing I improved on was my speed. I time myself on how long it takes me to fill a dish rack and how long it takes to put everything away.
This experience really changed my life. Because of God, and VIA so many doors have opened up for me that were closed before. I hope and pray that other people can have the same opportunity. Thank you for funding this and helping me.
Adam Willis

A Beacon of Hope and Path to Success at VIA

SEAT Student Highlight


February 1, 2021
Dear Supporter of Statler Center and VIA!
Translated by: Jillian Snyder
I would like to tell you a little bit about the person you helped. My name is Nahid Khorrami and I am legally blind and am losing more vision because I’m at the end stages of Glaucoma. I was born and raised in Afghanistan and moved to the United States with my family that I currently live with. I graduated high school in 2015. I came to VIA to get help with my vision loss and to look for a job. I started training at VIA but I had a very challenging time because I didn’t know much English. It was difficult for anyone to help me with service because of this language barrier and harder to have someone get a work experience for me because of the communicate back and forth.
VIA ended up using my sister as a translator for most meetings which was still a big language barrier but a little better. I did get a job in VIA’s blind manufacturing department, but then, the pandemic hit just as I was going to start in Manufacturing upstairs.
Because of my blindness and now this, I felt I was really getting the short end of the stick in many ways. After 10 months, I got approved to start my work experience. When I started I had really bad orientation skills and could barely get to the front door; but my motivation level was very high.
Not after too long, I learned how to find my way to the second floor and around the manufacturing department. I started working on the production line and was very slow but again was motivated, so I worked very, very hard to improve my speed. By the time my 90 day work experience was complete, I was one of the top 3 fastest people working upstairs!
In addition to all of those things, my English comprehension has improved very much! I even made friends! “I like it a lot. The people are so nice. I like Barb (and other coworkers). I want to work here more.”
I want to stay working here because “Other people have problems like me. If I go somewhere else, the might not know my problem and it will be difficult.”
I am happy and comfortable and feels support in this environment. Thank you to the people who help us.
Nahid Khorrami

Tyreke is a 21 year old male who was previously working at Dunkin Donuts and working on his music, one of his many passions. He learned about the SEAT Center from a previous employee and wanted to learn a trade and build a career. At SEAT, Tyreke has been able to obtain hands-on learning, increase his job training knowledge, and learn more about construction and the skills needed to enter into the trades. "I'm in a totally different trajectory of life. If it wasn't for this program, I would have a bland life just working at an entry level job and not being productive. I have found new things to learn and new ways to grow. I am looking forward to where my life is going."  The staff love working with Tyreke as he is positive and excited about possibilities and has taken advantage of new opportunities that have come to him through programming. He is on time every day, supports his peers, fully participates in programming, and has demonstrated that he is a strong leader. 

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