No Barriers Climb Program Empowers Blind or Visually Impaired Students at Leadership Retreat

Featuring motivational speaker and author Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest

Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-335-LARA (5272)

April 22, 2019 - Empowering young people to live life with no barriers and achieve great things by overcoming adversity was the focus of the No Barriers Climb Program attended by blind and visually impaired students at a weekend leadership retreat offered by LARA’s Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS).  Students had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Erik Weihenmayer, an internationally acclaimed author and inspirational speaker who developed No Barriers – a program about discovering tools and insights to convert challenges into greatness and reach for nearly impossible goals. The event was held at Lake Ann Camp near Traverse City. 

“This was an amazing opportunity for our students to experience the No Barriers program and for them to personally meet Mr. Weihenmayer,” said BSBP Director Bill Robinson. “No Barriers focuses on self-advocacy training and is designed to empower anyone (sighted or not) to overcome their own personal barriers, discover their own way forward and eventually share that light with others.”

Over the course of the weekend, students completed the curriculum by exploring the No Barriers seven Life Elements. They participated in team building activities and by participating in a high ropes course and tackling an indoor rock climbing wall designed to shape the mind, body and spirit. They were challenged to reach within themselves to determine their goals and how to achieve them – all with the mindset of harnessing adversity and moving beyond it to create a purposeful life. 

Weihenmayer, the first blind man to reach the Seven Summits -- the highest point on every continent, was the keynote at the Michigan Transition Services Association Pre-Conference Session. He met with the students who talked about their own challenges and how the No Barriers program will help them. Students returned home with the challenge of implementing the No Barriers life philosophy through Service Learning and taking on leadership roles. 

“It’s very powerful to watch students that you’ve known for years turn into the mature young adults that they are now,” said Jaclyn Tollas, a transition specialist with BSBP. “The No Barriers program really approached topics in a way that the students could understand and had the students thinking about their own personal mission and how they can serve others in their communities.”

BSBP continues to bring programs and events to students that will allow them to reach for stretch goals based on experiences that challenge their imagination and allow them to understand their role in society is not diminished due to a disability.

BSBP programming for Pre-Employment Transition Services includes job exploration and counseling; work-based learning; postsecondary exploration; workplace readiness training; social skills and independent living skills; and self-advocacy instruction. BSBP makes available Pre-Employment Transition Services statewide through its seven field offices and training center and through partners such as the intermediate school districts.

According to the Governor’s Talent Investment Board, Michigan will have more than 800,000 job openings by 2024. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) in Michigan partners with business to meet the demands for talent in the state. Michigan VR has two main points of contact for the VR National Employment Team (NET), Jenny Piatt, Michigan Rehabilitation Services; and Lisa Kisiel, BSBP. See for more information about the NET.

The pre-employment transition services provided under the Vocational Rehabilitation program described in this press release are funded 100 percent through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. For federal fiscal year 2019, the total amount of grant funds used for these services is expected to approximate or exceed $2 million.

No Barriers Attendee on rock climbing wallNo Barriers Attendee participating in an activity










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