DIALOGUE Interviews Bernadette Kappen of Overbrook

This year the Overbrook School for the Blind celebrates its 175th anniversary. Recently we asked the school's director, Dr. Bernadette Kappen, to tell us about the school and its programs. Here is what we learned.

The Overbrook School for the Blind located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has increased its student population over the past 10 years. In addition to the campus program, the school serves 150 infants and toddlers in their homes. The international program serves countries in Southeast Asia and in China.

Overbrook serves the blindness community through its educational programs to children and their families, international training programs, outreach services to the local community and Towers Press Publications. Staff members of Overbrook are members of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired; Council for Exceptional Children, Division on Visual Impairments; International Council for Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired and Deafblind International. The school cooperates with blindness organizations related to transition planning and adheres to the national agenda. Overbrook is a member of the Council of Schools for the Blind and is a supporter of the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments.

Overbrook is funded through a state appropriation and a percentage of tuition charged to the local school districts. The Early Intervention Program is funded by the Department of Public Welfare through contracts with several counties. Overbrook also conducts a variety of fundraising activities, including special events, annual appeals and foundation support.

Overbrook serves students with a variety of disabilities in addition to blindness as well as students who are only visually impaired. The school ensures that all students have the technology they need throughout the day. In 1999, Overbrook won the American Foundation for the Blind's Access Award for its technology initiative. Students receive a quality education by a highly qualified staff.

Academically, Overbrook is working to strengthen the reading program for adolescents who are struggling readers. In 2007, Overbrook will be celebrating the past while looking to the future as it also celebrates its 175th anniversary. Festivities for this milestone year began in September with a Kick-off Celebration and Open House. A new museum at the school also opened, which features exhibits, photos and artifacts from the past 175 years.

Throughout the year many other exciting events are planned around this anniversary. In April, Sabriye Tenberken, who was part of Overbrook's International program and featured in Oprah's magazine and on her television show as one of the Eight Women Oprah Wants You to Know, will visit Overbrook and give presentations on the work she is doing in Tibet to help children there who are blind. Tenberken has written two books. Two documentaries about her life have also been produced.

On June 9, 2007 the 175th Anniversary Gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency at Penn's Landing and will feature a silent auction and dancing. For more information on attending this spectacular event, call 215-877-0313, ext. 264.

To learn more about Overbrook School for the Blind, visit  or request a copy of the informational DVD and printed materials by calling 215-877-0313.

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