Salus University’s Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS) department has partnered with the Northeast Pennsylvania Lions Service Foundation (NEPALSF) for a pilot program to bring quality services to northeast Pennsylvania.

BLVS StudentThe program will provide up to five Salus BLVS students with a stipend to do a semester-long direct service internship in northeastern Pennsylvania, with the ultimate goal of attracting students to jobs in that area after graduation.
Students in all four disciplines of BLVS — Low Vision Rehabilitation (LVR), Orientation and Mobility (O&M), Teachers of Children with Visual Impairments (TVI) and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) —qualify to participate in the pilot program.

“The Lions Service Foundation has been collaborating with us for several years now, as their mission and our mission align in the sense that we want to see people with vision impairments being served nationwide, and specifically in their area,” said Dr. Fabiana Perla, EdD, COMS, CLVR, chair of the BLVS department.

In the past four years, the Lions Foundation has provided $100,000 in scholarship money for students who come from northeastern Pennsylvania and want to enter the field of BLVS. For the current year, the foundation continues to offer scholarship awards, but has provided an additional $20,000 for the pilot internship program. Students will be placed in agencies, organizations and schools in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The stipend funds can be used in any way that supports the awarded students during a semester-long internship in northeastern Pennsylvania. Examples include child care, relocation costs, and  compensation for not being able to work for a semester, among others.

BLVS Student“The idea is to offer these incentives with the hope that some of those internships turn into jobs later on,” said Dr. Perla. "However, even if businesses there don’t have an immediate opening, at least they will have increased their high quality services while our interns are there.”

Dr. Perla and the BLVS faculty are now in the development and implementation phase of the program. The pilot program will require the students to be in good academic standing and commit to work full-time at the internship site for a semester.

“We don’t know if anybody has done this before — to provide a stipend for students for their direct service, so we’re piloting it and seeing how it works,” said Dr. Perla. “We not only want to increase the quantity but also improve the quality of services to individuals with visual impairments in PA and NEPALSF’s support may help us achieve that goal.”