Like any high school student, Anthony was excited to get his first part-time job at McDonald’s. He was eager to make some spending money, learn some responsibility – and maybe even get some discounts on those famous fries.
But unlike his peers, Anthony is visually impaired. He has ocular albinism, which makes him extra sensitive to bright lights – he usually wears sunglasses, both indoors and out – and limits his peripheral vision.
“I told nobody about my visual impairment, and it was a wreck,” he said. He felt overwhelmed by the fluorescent lights. The small print on the cash register was hard to read. He quickly left that job.
Today, Anthony’s confident that will never happen again. That’s thanks to the skills and experience he’s gained through Perkins School for the Blind, which offers vocational programs for both Perkins and public school students as they prepare for future employment.
“Now I know if I need help or accommodations, just speak up,” said Anthony, who attends public school.
He first attended the Perkins Pre-Employment Program in winter 2016, which guided him through resume writing, interview tips and connected him with adults with visual impairments who work in a variety of fields. Then, he used those skills in the five-week World of Work program in summer 2016 and 2017.
Last summer, he interned at Brookline Bank, where he shadowed employees in different positions, from tellers to credit analysts. He learned about operations at its headquarters in downtown Boston, as well as its branches throughout Massachusetts, including one close to his house. That led to a part-time job as a teller, which was simultaneously thrilling and nerve-wracking.
“Once I was on the clock, it was like ‘run, run, run!’” said Anthony. “I went from feeling like it was OK to make mistakes to feeling like, they’re paying me, I can’t make mistakes.”
This summer, he worked at Faulkner Hospital, where he was constantly on his feet, pushing patients in wheelchairs, guiding families around the building or working in the kitchen. He was encouraged to figure things out independently, like the best way to direct visitors throughout the hospital.
“He experienced what a down-to-earth working person has to do,” said Anthony’s father, Gregory Bynum.
Bynum has enrolled Anthony in Perkins programs since he was young, including Space Camp and Theater Week.
“Perkins has just created such a secure, comfortable place for him. He’s more outgoing – you see the real side of him. I’d recommend these programs for any student.”
With so many different work experiences under his belt, high school senior Anthony is excited for what he’ll be able to accomplish in college and beyond. He plans to study information technology, and he has big plans for after he graduates.
“I’m reaching for the stars,” he said. “I want to work for Google or another big company.”