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The Foothill Dragon Press

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Local volunteers help make books for visually impaired

This is one of the buildings that the Alternate Text Production Center uses to transcribe school books for the visually impaired. Credit: Caitlin Trude/The Foothill Dragon Press.
This is one of the buildings that the Alternate Text Production Center uses to transcribe school books for the visually impaired. Credit: Caitlin Trude/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Ventura College student Valerie Grand typed meticulously on the keyboard, keeping her focus on the computer screen and the task at hand. Grand works at the Alternate Text Production Center (ATPC) across the street from Foothill.

Grand said that working at the ATPC helps her “refresh” her computer skills. She added, “It doesn’t get boring…me and the girls talk here a lot.”

Like Foothill students, Grand volunteers her time to serving the community. Grand is involved with CalWORKs, a program that requires its students to serve a certain amount of service hours. She can be found working on the computers fixing files for the ATPC every Monday through Thursday between four to five hours each of those days.

The center was established June 2001 and is serviced by Ventura College. Those who work at the ATPC help to modify school books into Braille, electronic text, or tactile graphics for visually impaired students “at no cost to California Community colleges.” The ATPC director, Michael Bastine explained that the center not only serves the community and 112 California colleges, but also all over the world.

Sandra Greenberg, the Braille Coordinator for ATPC also enjoys her work. As the Braille Coordinator, she is responsible for the running of several machines which format the books. With a large smile, she said that she was pleased to be working in a place where she could help students succeed.

Because the ATPC is conveniently located by Foothill, it seems like there would be a multitude of students working there. However, getting Foothill students to volunteer their time here is no easy feat. Bastine had lost over twenty Foothill student volunteers this year.

As part of the application process, volunteers must be fingerprinted prior to working, which can cost between $50 to $70, according to Foothill’s media center director Linda Kapala. Bastine understood that the college’s fingerprinting requirement was the reason for this sudden drop of volunteers.

“I don’t know why. For years, decades, teachers had to [be fingerprinted],” he said.

Despite the loss of Foothill volunteers, Bastine stated that some El Camino students were starting to volunteer at the ATPC.

Kapala said that the ATPC was the only organization on the list of 150 approved organizations that had a fingerprinting requirement. Though she does not necessarily promote the idea of volunteers being fingerprinted, she left the ATPC on the list of approved organizations, knowing that they need all they help they can receive.

Kapala said of community service organizations like the ATPC, “[They] heavily rely on Foothill volunteers. Tons of these organizations function well because of Foothill students.” 

“Most kids find out that volunteering is in many ways life-changing.” 

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