Welcome to the GUIDE Program

The GUIDE Program was launched in September of 2021. The program was designed and run by Ally Kelso, a Project RISE participant, who started it for her girl scout Gold Award project.

The program was offered to students living across the state of Virginia. It was so successful that Ally decided to continue the program into a second year and formally partner with the NFB of Virginia.

Watch this video to learn about the impact this program had on last year's participants:

Objectives for the GUIDE Program

GUIDE stands for grow, unify, inspire, deliver, and engage. We will address and embrace these themes throughout the program, as we engage in discussions, hands-on activities, and games during our virtual sessions together.

The goals of the GUIDE Program are:

  • Build confidence.
  • Create new friendships.
  • Develop positive attitudes about visual impairments.

Who We Serve

The GUIDE Program is open to all blind and vision impaired students, between the ages of 8 and 14 or in third-eighth grade, who live in the Virginia Commonwealth and who have a desire to participate. These students are the mentees of the program and will be mentored by one or more blind or vision impaired high school or college aged students.

Are you between the ages of 14 and 22? Consider checking out Project RISE, our parent program.

Having a desire to learn, an open mind, and respect for others are the only requirements in place for mentees to participate. Sessions will be held on Zoom, on Saturdays once a month, starting in September.

Mentees between third-fifth grades will meet from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM EST. Mentees in sixth-eighth grades will meet from 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM EST.

Mentees, register Here.

The GUIDE Program is also open to all blind and vision impaired young adults, between the ages of 15 and 22, who live in Virginia and who want to be mentors that make a positive impact on these younger student's lives. All young adult students can be mentors, regardless of their level of education, and will be paired up with one or more mentees whom they will communicate with during and in between sessions. The requirements in place for mentors to participate are that they must:

  • Have positive attitudes about visual impairments
  • Embody good social-behavioral skills
  • Act appropriately around children and parents
  • Respect others
  • Attend program sessions-quarterly meetings as often as possible; occasional conflicts are allowed

Mentors, register here.

Meet Our Team!

Program Coordinator: Ally Kelso

I'm Ally and I live in Burke, Virginia. I'm a senior in high school, who enjoys singing, performing in theater productions, watching YouTube, and spending time with family and friends. I serve as the VP of Recruitment on my school choir’s student board and I also participate in Girl Scouts. After high school, I plan to combine my passions for music and helping others by pursuing a degree in music therapy. I started losing my vision at age 3 and, though it has not been easy, I've never let blindness or my genetic condition, EEC syndrome, stop me from reaching my dreams.

Ally's Why Behind the GUIDE Program

I started the GUIDE Program because I want blind and vision impaired youth to realize that, through acceptance and hard work, their visual impairment can become a minor inconvenience. I want both the mentors and mentees to know that, with the right tools, training, and attitude, they are capable of doing anything they desire. These youth, regardless of their age, need to know that they are important, strong, talented individuals who have a community of other blind and vision impaired people here to support them. If you're a student, I hope that you will join this program to realize that blindness does not define you or anybody else!

Assistant Coordinator: Ray Hamdaan

My name is Ray and I'm from northern Virginia. I'm a recent high school graduate and this school year, I'm going to be attending a blind adult training center, called the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision impaired, before I go to college. Once I find a college, I plan to pursue a degree in early childhood intervention-education, where I will work with kids at a clinic as a special intervention specialist or at a preschool, as a special education teacher. Some of my hobbies include knitting, writing, and researching about anything that might come to mind. I come from a country that had no government support when it came to providing services for any child with special needs. Families there lived with no hope if they had a child who was blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, or cognitively disabled. People would pity parents for having a child who was different. I know what it's like to not have options; hence, why this is my potential career choice. While I can't assist families in a professional way right now, the GUIDE Program gives me a chance to be a role model for other blind children. For blind and vision impaired children (the mentees,), giving hope, courage, and a will to self advocate and learn is what I strive to do in this program and I hope you will join the program to obtain these qualities and skills. Together, we're all here to grow, unify, and inspire. Mentors, if you truly believe in our mission in inspiring blind children, you are the right fit to join this mentoring team.

Assistant Coordinator: Aracely Turcios

I'm Aracely, and I live in Galax, Virginia. This year, I plan on attending the adult program at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision impaired. I love to sing and hang out with friends as well as watch YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu. I'm doing the GUIDE Program because I want to help kids realize that they have other people just like them to talk to. I think others should participate in the GUIDE Program because it’s really nice to know you have other people, who have visual impairments just like you, to talk to.

Aubree Jackson, GUIDE Program Mentor

I am Aubree Jackson. I live in Montpelier, Virginia. This year, I will be a senior in high school. I love playing video games, watching YouTube, and hanging out with friends and family. I'm doing the GUIDE Program because I feel like we are family and it's fun to get to know other people just like you. I hope you will join the GUIDE Program because it's a very safe environment. We do a lot of fun activities and you get to meet other people who are blind and vision impaired, just like you.

Natalie Rubio, Social Media Manager

Hi I’m Natalie! I’m a senior in high school and I live in Northern Virginia. I love all things music, from singing to songwriting and creating fun Spotify playlists. I also love video editing and I enjoy making graphic designs for clubs and organizations. I wanted to join the GUIDE program because I wanted to meet other people who had vision impairments or blindness, since I never knew anyone who has gone through similar experiences that I have. I wanted to be a part of a community of people who just want to help each other succeed despite any challenges we face. I also wanted to help younger kids with skills like self advocacy, because I know that it's not always easy to have to ask for help. I hope to be a teacher someday, so I think that the GUIDE program is a great way for me to learn teaching skills that can be beneficial for me in the future.

You should join the GUIDE program because it really is a safe space for everyone to learn and grow from each other, and have some fun! You can learn great skills, meet amazing people, and overall, have a good time! This program is truly a wonderful community where all are welcome and heard.

Expectations for the Program

Our program will have its first session in October and its last session in May. Mentors and the GUIDE Program Team will have quarterly meetings throughout the school year, including a meeting prior to the first session in October to plan session activities-lessons and bond with one another. Information will be coming soon after mentors register. Mentors are expected to come to as many sessions and quarterly meetings as they can. Mentors are expected to reach out to their mentee/mentees at least once between our sessions to build relationships with them. Mentors will be given conversation questions and topics to use when talking with their mentee/mentees.

Mentees will be expected to attend their respective sessions as often as possible; parents and or mentees should inform their mentor or Ally if they will not be present at a session. Mentors will be expected to attend both the elementary school and the middle school sessions as often as possible.

Parents, please supervise the communication between your child (children,) and their mentor (mentors). Please promptly report any problems involving GUIDE Program participants to Ally and Ray at: guide@nfbv.org.

For high school/college age mentors, The registration deadline is midnight on Sunday, October 9. Mentors are agreeing to volunteer until May. For 8-14YO mentees, the deadline to register for the GUIDE Program is midnight on Sunday, October 16; however, if you need to register after these deadlines, please email: guide@nfbv.org.

  • Saturday October 22
  • Saturday, November 19th
  • Saturday, December 17

Other Information

Parents, although we are just in high school, college, or the early stages of adulthood, the GUIDE Program team and the mentors are dedicated and eager to connect with you, work with you, and put on a successful program for all participants. Furthermore, all members of our team have completed rigorous safety training and have been vetted for suitability to work with children. If you have any additional questions, comments, requests, or concerns regarding
the program, please email: guide@nfbv.org.

The program is being overseen by adult leaders Rebecca Peek, a licensed teacher of students with visual impairment and Louise Walch, GUIDE Coordinator. Both may be reached at the above email, guide@nfbv.org.

Follow us on TikTok, or Instagram @guide_program.

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Here is the phone number you should call if you need to get in touch with us: 617-600-8214

We look forward to connecting with you soon!