Studying a map on his iPad, Owen Smith looks up at the street signs and back down at the map. He looks both ways, then turns right down 34th Street, the correct direction for his destination, the Penn Museum.
The decision prompts praise from the group of students crowded around him on the street corner.
On this Saturday in February, 16-year-old Smith is in a program for high school students with disabilities through Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE). Paired with him is second-year GSE student Jenna Albi, keeping track of every move and decision he makes on this walk across campus.
Called VAST LIFE, the program gives GSE students the experience they need to meet Pennsylvania requirements for special education certification with a master’s degree in education, while also helping local teens and their families.
“I’m so proud of you!” Albi tells Smith, who is gripping the iPad with both gloved hands as they approach the Museum, crossing 34th Street after waiting for the “Walk” signal. “We made it here.”