By Sebastien Bartlett | Web Designer
While not many may know senior Kyle Hamm or his achievements of the past year, he has been involved in many programs and jobs in the community and state and recently received an award for his participation in a camp sponsored by the Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB).
The camp, called the Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP), gave Hamm the opportunity to experience physical labor, including such tasks as chopping and stacking firewood. Hamm’s favorite memory is getting to run a chainsaw.
“It was fun,” Hamm said.
Hamm’s mother, Tina Martinez, related her experience of first learning about the summer program. Tina was at an IEP (individualized education program) meeting for her son when she learned he had qualified for the program.
“I had no idea a program like this was around,” said Martinez. “Most parents of special needs kids don’t know what kind of options are out there.”
Hamm traveled to an OCB facility in Salem and stayed at the facility for a while, giving the instructors a chance to learn about him and what he enjoys doing. Hamm was then assigned to an advisor, along with another student, and they both received jobs in the Salem area. The advisors provided direction and transportation, but the employers supplying the jobs were responsible for the students like Hamm once they were on the job.
The students worked eight-hour days, and received minimum wage pay. After work, students in the program returned to their living situation and assumed the role of independent adults. Martinez is impressed with how the program teaches initiative and self-sufficiency.
“Coming back, Kyle is really independent,” Martinez said “He has his own schedule now, and makes himself breakfast and lunch.”
Martinez is happy this opportunity was made available to Hamm. According to Martinez, many parents of special needs children end up doing everything for their children, instead of helping them grow.
“Often special needs parents keep their kids trapped in a bubble,” Martinez said.
Hamm received the award from OCB for being the student who made the most adjustments during the four-week camp. He received a plaque which hangs in the front room of his house and $100, which he spent toward a new, bright green iPod.
Hamm is very proud of his award. On the last day of the program a ceremony was held for those who completed the course and he received two awards then, so he was very surprised when he received the third award recently.
“It was pretty unexpected,” Martinez said.
Hamm said he made a lot of friends while participating in SWEP and said they will be returning to the program this summer, just as he plans to do, and he looks forward to seeing them again.
Hamm wishes to enter the workforce after his graduation on June 9. He currently has two jobs. One day per week Hamm restocks movies and video games at local business Video & More. Additionally, Hamm works in recycling three days per week at Southwestern Oregon Community College. Hamm has expressed interest in several jobs he would like to participate in after graduation. Earlier in his high school years, he volunteered at a local fire station washing the fire trucks. He said he really enjoyed this and would perhaps like to continue working with the firefighters.
Hamm also recently signed up with the Community Adult Assisted Living Program which will allow him to have a home of his own. Also, if a resident has a job interest, the program will go above and beyond to help people achieve what they want.
Martinez said Hamm is a very active person and is open to new experiences.
“Kyle is very social, likes friends and likes challenges,” Martinez said. “He’s always willing to take a chance on something.”