A Sweet Job Teaches This High School Student Valuable Skills 

A young adult smiling outside in front of a red farm truck.

Qiao Angermeier and her mother, Rhonda, admit that Qiao has always enjoyed taking on challenges.  

“I don’t like just sitting around doing nothing,” says 17-year-old Qiao. Qiao is a talented musician, especially at the piano, and is on the girl’s wrestling team at school. “If there’s something to be done, I want to get it done.”  

Rhonda describes her daughter as a “self-starter,” which is a valuable skill – especially when getting your first job. 

Qiao has been blind since childhood due to retinoblastoma, or eye cancer. She moved to the U.S. from China when her parents adopted her as a young girl. 

Now a high school junior, Qiao’s part-time job is a great example of obtaining a job through a social network. Her wrestling coach is friends with one of the partners in a local chocolate store, who asks the coach to let students know when he’s looking for staff. Qiao says she thought the job sounded interesting, so she went in and talked to one of the owners in spring 2023. 

Getting Experience from Day One 

“When she first went in for the job, I went with her,” Rhonda says. “I wanted to let the owner know that we wouldn’t be offended if there wasn’t a way to make the job work for Qiao. We’re used to people underestimating Qiao’s skills because she’s blind.” 

As it turns out, the owner could not have been more open to the idea and offered Qiao the job. According to Rhonda, he said, “Let’s just see how this works out, what Qiao can do, and how we can train her and modify things. He was just fantastic.” 

Qiao’s primary job is wrapping boxes of chocolates, but she’s also learned to construct the boxes. Now, they’re working on making it possible for her to take phone orders using a spreadsheet instead of the pad of paper the store used in the past. 

“Other employees are astounded at how quickly Qiao wraps the boxes,” Rhonda says. 

Both Rhonda and Qiao take satisfaction in showing people everything someone who is blind is capable of. Working with her Orientation & Mobility (O&M) instructor, Qiao has gotten so good at navigating the area where the store is that Rhonda no longer needs to drop her off right at the door. 

“It makes Qiao so much more visible in our community,” Rhonda says. “I think every time someone sees her walking around or sees her at work, it helps change those stereotypes about what blind people can do.” 

Learning Skills Needed for Any Job 

There’s no question that Qiao is a highly capable young woman. For instance, her piano skills have already garnered her offers from two local universities. Although she’s already visiting colleges, Qiao isn’t sure if music is the career path she’ll choose – but she loves music so much that buying instruments and accessories motivated her to get a job. 

However, there’s more to her job than keeping her in music supplies. Qiao says she’s learning some very helpful skills.  

“I’m not very outgoing, so I think the job will definitely help me with social skills,” she explains. “No matter what I decide to do in the future, that will help me regardless.” 

Rhonda is pleased Qiao is getting involved in the customer service side of the job to build those social skills and more. 

Practicing self-advocacy skills  

“She was convinced she could handle this job, or at least try. She’s pretty fearless about going after things,” she says. “The only thing I’ve been encouraging her about is moving on to taking more calls because she can definitely handle the technology they’ve put in place.” 

Qiao says she’s also learned to ask for help when she needs it, such as navigating the small shop so she doesn’t knock things over. But she’s also built her self-advocacy skills.  

“I’ve learned to make it clear to everyone at the store what I can and can’t do,” Qiao says. “And I would encourage anyone else starting a job to be willing to accept if it’s something they can’t do – but don’t give up. Be flexible and keep trying to develop. You’ll never develop if you give up at the first obstacle.”  

Rhonda adds that one of Qiao’s greatest qualities is her determination. 

“She’s always looking for the next hill to climb – the next thing she can do to succeed,” she says. “She’s very resilient and bounces back from each challenge in her life. That has probably served her better than anything. She has a good attitude and keeps bouncing back.”