Enter Portland State University’s radio station, aptly named KPSU, and you will be greeted with the smiling face of Ryan Kepler. Employed at the radio station for five weeks now, Kepler says he’s an old hand, taking on the task of training incoming employees.
When he’s not at the mic greeting students on the air Monday mornings, he can be found industriously organizing and labeling CDs, laying the ground work for other programs airing in the station and sorting digital card machines.
Kepler describes his job as a “volunteer activity” and emphatically states “there’s always something to do.”
His normal routine includes arriving at the station at eight or nine in the morning, depending on whether he has a show airing, and staying on for a minimum of six hours every day dividing his time between helping students with locating CDs and other problems they might have.
So what makes him unique?
Ryan Kepler is partially blind with some vision that he says accords him with “excellent close-up vision,” but makes distant sighting hard. He elaborated he needs to use his cane for easier mobility but sighting street signs for example is not a problem.
Kepler’s tryst with radio stations did not start with KPSU. He worked for a small, neighborhood radio station in Salem last summer, laying a foundation for the bigger world he dreams of.
Kepler is just one of the many in Portland determined to fight life’s impediments to achieve their goals. The state of Oregon has played an active role in helping people in similar situations to overcome fears and prepare for professional careers.
KPSU is a participant in the Summer Work Experience Program, sponsored by the Oregon Commission for the Blind. The program was created to help legally blind students have an opportunity to gain experience in an area that interests them via a paid internship.
Kepler joined KPSU as an intern through the organization. He is a senior at Tualatin High School and wants to work in radio full-time as an announcer and production director.
A brochure for the Oregon Commission for the Blind states, “Our goal is to give you the confidence and the skills necessary for successful employment, so that you can maintain your autonomy while contributing to society.”
The commission provides not only job assistance through a federal state partnership, but also works in close conjunction with businesses seeking dedicated and skilled employees. Participants work with assigned mentors or counselors who help identify obstacles faced in the workplace and together develop a plan for continued progress and growth.
A pet project adopted by the Commission is the Orientation and Career Center for the Blind, which is a “comprehensive and training program designed to address individual, independent living and pre-employment skills.”
Most participants in the Center for the Blind program are people who have lost their eyesight in adulthood and must learn to adapt and survive in their new environment. It is with this perspective the Center for the Blind is committed to teaching its students skills in a variety of areas.
However, it is people such as Ryan Kepler who continue to prod and push others into achieving the goals they set for themselves and to serve as role models to a community that believes in motivating its people with a strong support network of relationships.
Ryan’s indomitable spirit and general demeanor of cheerfulness is effortlessly portrayed in his enthusiastic descriptions of his job. As he patiently focuses on filing CDs, it is apparent overcoming difficulties is what Ryan Kepler is all about.