The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) welcomed another 40 teens with hearing loss to its 26th annual Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT) program this summer. Youth Program Counselors all graduated from the LOFT program and pay it forward by guiding the experience for the teens who follow them.
AG Bell was gratified to renew its in-person LOFT program which had been offered virtually for two years. Forty teens traveled to Washington D.C. to the campus of Georgetown University, just two blocks from AG Bell’s headquarters at the historic Volta Bureau. Youth programs are vital to helping teens discover they are not alone in their challenges, as many teens report never having met another person with hearing loss before participating in LOFT. Through this program, they discover “someone just like me” who understands their hearing loss and can share experiences and successes that help build support and self-confidence.
Teens participated in various activities that promote team building, leadership, and self-advocacy including an improv session led by DC Improv. Teens connected with speakers including I. King Jordan, Disability Programs Consultant for the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, and John Stanton, AG Bell Board Member and a U.S. attorney with the Department of Justice who helped facilitate the admission of a group of deaf and hard of hearing attorneys into the Supreme Court of the United States. Teens spent time at the Volta Bureau, constructed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1893, and had the opportunity to see national monuments and visit the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Activities like these add to the teens’ shared experiences and challenge them to navigate and advocate in small groups.
Through anonymous post-surveys, teens who attended LOFT provided testimonials of their experiences in the program. Here are a few of their testimonials:
“The most significant thing I learned from LOFT is what it really means to have a true community to share knowledge and wisdom and topics outside of our hearing loss and to feel seen with other people with hearing loss.”
“I’ve learned that there are many different ways to be a leader. Advocating for myself leads to many different opportunities.”
“LOFT was the most empowering program I’ve been a part of, especially in relation to my hearing loss. Meeting others like me obviously made me feel less isolated, but it also made me more confident. I’m lucky I’m still in touch with the people from my LOFT session since we’re able to talk to each other about struggles most other people wouldn’t understand. I am eternally grateful to have been offered a spot in this program.”
LOFT programming would not be possible without the generosity of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and other sponsors. For more information and to apply to attend LOFT, please visit AGBellLOFT.com or email LOFT@agbell.org.