Envision hosts annual conference, featuring jazz prodigy José André Montaño

Jose Andre Montano will be performing at the WSU Metropolitan Complex Auditorium July 13. Photo courtesy Envision

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Envision announced details about its annual Level Up Conference Tuesday. The conference is being held at Wichita State University this week from July 14 through July 19.

The conference will be attended by 35 high school students who are blind or visually impaired. Those students will be representing five states. The conference features sessions relating to art, music, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), interpersonal and self-advocacy skills, career planning and more as well as a College, Career and Resource Expo.

For the first time, Level Up will include a benefit concert by special guest José André Montaño at 7:30 p.m. on June 13 at the WSU Hughes Metropolitan Complex. Montaño is a 13-year-old, Bolivian-born jazz piano prodigy with cerebral palsy who is blind. He has performed around the world, most notably at the Kennedy Center in New York City and World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Tickets for the concert can be purchased in advance for $10 or at the door for $15. If you are interested in buying tickets, click here.

“We do whatever it takes to give our students all the assets they need to compete in the classroom and in their careers with peers who are typically sighted,” said Bonnie Cochran, director of support programs at Envision. “This year, we’re adding a career expo with colleges and local businesses on site to talk with them, and a resource fair to show them the latest resources and technology. We want to let students experience talking to professionals and get comfortable giving their elevator pitches. At the same time, we want employers to take note of these kids as employable contacts.”

Launched 12 years ago, Level Up includes a program for middle school students held in late May to early June and a conference for high school students in July. It has grown each year and served hundreds of students from around the country who were nominated by their school districts’ Teachers of the Visually Impaired to attend.

Alysha Hiller, a Wichita native who grew up totally blind and found support in Envision’s youth programs, traveled from her home in Virginia to present the keynote address to open this year’s conference. Hiller, who currently works as a FBI forensic audio examiner, exemplifies the mission of the Level Up Program to inspire teenagers who are blind or visually impaired to set high goals and never stop until they are accomplished.

“I’m proud and delighted to return to Envision and share my story with this year’s Level Up attendees,” said Hiller. “Programs like these are so critical to showing young students with vision loss not only how many opportunities are out there waiting for them but also how to acquire the skills and qualities they’ll need to pursue them.”

For more information about Envision and the Level Up Program, visit www.envisionus.com.

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