New Telephone Support Group for High School Seniors Planning to Attend College

We are pleased to welcome Daniel M. Callahan, Director of Children’s Vision Health, to the FamilyConnect blog today to announce Jewish Guild Healthcare’s new telephone support group for high school seniors who are blind or visually impaired.

Dan Callahan Senior year for any high school student thinking about leaving home for the first time to attend college can be a time of both excitement and apprehension. For a student who is blind or visually impaired it can be a time of anxiety and even fear. Many students with visual impairments have never spent a night away from home in their lives. They’ve been supported by their parents, their Teachers of the Visually Impaired, their counselors and social workers, their para-professionals; all working to provide them with everything they need to succeed in school. Suddenly that carefully constructed support system is gone and they are expected to live independently.

It’s going to be a new world for them. They’ll have to advocate for themselves with professors who might never before have come in contact with a student with a visual impairment. They’ll want to develop new friendships and fit into the social life that is such an important part of the college experience. Some students are able to handle all these challenges, graduate, and go on to successful careers. Others never seem to master those special skills and either don’t graduate at all or spend many more years than is necessary getting a degree.

State agencies for the blind that sponsor students in college are coming to realize that proper preparation for a successful college experience can’t be left solely to the local school districts. To their credit, they are investing in programs that provide those needed skills.

The New York State Commission for the Blind has, after a 30-year hiatus, reinstituted a mandatory Summer College Prep Program, held on a college campus, for visually impaired high school students between their junior and senior years. The Illinois Bureau of Blind Services has created a “Taste of College” program which, among other things, introduces their future college students to current college students in hopes of forming a mentoring relationship.

In support of these efforts, Jewish Guild Healthcare (formerly the Jewish Guild for the Blind), located in New York City, has instituted a national telephone support group intended for blind and visually impaired high school students from around the country who are planning to attend college next year. The group is facilitated by Daria Zawadski, a social worker who became legally blind while a freshman at Harvard University, and who then went on to graduate and to complete both a Master’s Degree and a Law Degree.

The purpose of the group is to prepare students for what to expect in college. This is done through weekly telephone calls, featuring guest speakers who are current college students or successful graduates who are also blind and visually impaired. Other participants include directors of disabled student services at colleges with substantial numbers of blind students, as well as professionals with experience in preparing blind students for college.

To register for this group please call 800-915-0306 or email We’ll pick a day of the week and a time to hold the group based on the availability of the greatest number of interested seniors.