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The Importance of Professional Development Opportunities Outside the Classroom

The following article first appeared on the website of Dalhousie University’s Global Health Office, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. It is shared here with permission. 

As a first-year speech-language pathology student, I appreciate finding different ways to learn more about the profession outside of the classroom. This year I was able to become a student with Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC). As a student associate, I am able to access a vast collection of resources related to the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology. These resources include professional development events, access to journals, and supplies for developing advocacy.

I had the privilege to attend my first professional development event on World Hearing Day (March 3). As speech-language pathologists often work closely with audiologists to assist clients, these types of opportunities allow me to gain insight into the profession. The webinar, Starting the Conversation: What the WHO World Report on Hearing Means for Canada, highlighted the importance of advocating for the hearing screening of infants, school-age children, and adults. The information shared by the presenters gave me a better understanding of the services provided by audiologists and why individuals should have their hearing checked at different phases of their lives.

With the school semester recently coming to an end, I look forward to continuing to educate myself on topics relevant to the speech-language pathology and audiology fields through events hosted by SAC. As May is Speech and Hearing Month in Canada, I hope to participate in many more opportunities that will enhance my understanding of communication health.

Finally, I can’t wait to eventually go to a SAC event in person! I am hopeful that I will be able to attend next year’s Speech-Language Pathology Conference in Vancouver, BC. This occasion would be an amazing opportunity to network and learn more about the current research pertaining to the field.

Thank you to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and the Global Health Office for helping me access professional development opportunities as I continue my studies. For more information on these opportunities please visit the Global Health Office Diversity website.


Halle Loyek is a student in the Dalhousie University School of Communication Sciences and Disorders studying Speech-Language Pathology. She is from Red Deer, Alberta.

Valedictorian: Grateful for the Experience of Having Failed

Hana Ali is a Johnson Take Stock Program participant graduating this spring as Valedictorian of Lake Worth Community High School. On her way to attending the University of Florida, she’s picked up numerous scholarships, including awards from the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Teamwork USA, and the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars. She wrote this personal statement as part of the Johnson Take Stock Program.

I slid down so far that my legs were not even on the chair anymore. My heart pounded wildly. The minute hand moved at the pace of a snail. I was in science class, and I was in shock. I had just failed my assessment. I could barely comprehend the idea of failing because I had always done well in school. Growing up in my Caribbean household, academic success was a necessity so I could go to college, which is something my parents had not been able to do. At first, I felt that failure was a catastrophe that would hurt my parents and meant I was not cut-out for a career as a physician. I was going to throw it all away.

My parents always instilled in me and my siblings that although we did not have a lot, there were always others going through worse than us. Giving back was necessary to balance our blessings. When I was young, my mother took me to volunteer at local food drives. I loved the feeling of helping people and knew I wanted to continue doing it as I grew up. I wanted to go to medical school to be a physician, but this failure started to make me question my capability. My self-confidence plummeted and I began to reassess my career path. I kept thinking that failure was like an eternal red light, but it was actually just a stop sign, a momentary setback that would ultimately push me to try harder and gain confidence in myself.

My drive to be a physician was enough to motivate me to do everything I could to recover my grade in science and find ways to prevent such a failure in the future. Over the next three years, I became a sponge and absorbed as much information during class as I could. Instead of counting the seconds until class would be over, I paid attention, took notes, and stayed engaged. I began to see my work pay off and did dramatically better. I regained my confidence and motivation, and with my renewed drive, started seeking more opportunities: I started volunteering at a local hospital.

On my first day, I delivered a dozen bubblegum pink Minnie Mouse balloons to a little girl in the pediatric ward who was having surgery that afternoon. As I entered the girl’s room, her eyes instantly lit up. She was so excited by the balloons that her surgery felt less significant to her. I imagined how much more rewarding it would be to be her doctor and build a rapport with her while also helping to keep her healthy. During this volunteering experience, I discovered I wanted to specialize in pediatrics and was so grateful I did not give up on my aspiration because of one failure.

Her smile solidified all that I had been working towards after that first failed assessment. It gave me flashbacks to my childhood, giving out food with my mom and the happiness I felt helping others. I realized the failure was just a bump in the road and that I could become a physician if I did not allow failures to discourage me. Without having failed and recovered, I would not have the kind of resilience and self-efficacy I have today, and I would never get to be the great and caring physician I know I will become. My new outlook will give me the confidence to overcome life’s obstacles, so looking back, I am grateful for the experience of having failed.


 

What is Speech-Language Therapy, and Who Can Benefit From It?

This article first appeared on Groves Academy’s website, and is shared with permission. Groves Academy is a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. 

 

“But my child talks just fine…” is often the response I get from parents when I first recommend that they have their student participate in a speech/language assessment. This is such a common misconception, but the truth is, speech is such a small part of what we focus on in speech-language therapy.

At Groves, it’s really the LANGUAGE part of speech-language therapy that our students need. We work with students from Groves Academy and from our community who are diagnosed with specific learning disorders, ADHD/Executive Functioning deficits, or often both. Our goals with students target reading comprehension, vocabulary development, sentence structure/grammar, telling narratives, writing, etc. BUT, before we can target any of those skills, we have to target executive functioning. Executive functioning is, after all, foundational to learning.

In order to learn, students need to be able to attend to the material, organize their ideas, plan ahead, manage their time, be flexible when plans need to change, and be able to reflect on their work to continue to improve. Speech-language therapy at Groves always includes an executive functioning component, as all students, even those without a diagnosed disorder, have difficulty with executive functioning because that part of the brain does not fully develop until adulthood.

Understanding language (both spoken and written) and expressing oneself are also huge keys to success in academic (and really all) environments. Language is involved in every part of a student’s day from following directions during gym class, solving word problems in math, communicating with peers at lunch and recess, writing a paper for social studies or reading the instructions for a project in art class. If a student has a hard time understanding spoken language or expressing themselves effectively, it will affect all parts of their day.

If your student experiences any of the following difficulties, it may be helpful to have them assessed by a speech-language pathologist:

Read more here. 


Meghan Miller is Director of Speech-Language Pathology at Groves Academy

VIA’s Statler Center Trains People for Heroic Work

You never know where you might find a hero – perhaps a person who provides the right help in hard times.

For thousands of people who called for help last year to 211 in Western New York, the heroes on other end of the line were individuals who had trained at the National Statler Center. The National Statler Center is the educational and employment arm of VIA, formerly Olmsted Center for Sight, a Johnson Scholarship Foundation grantee partner.

The stories they heard covered every difficulty imaginable, but amplified by the pandemic – a man needing rent assistance as a landlord threatened eviction, a 22-year-old pregnant woman out of work and out of money, a senior whose water heater quit working, a deaf woman trying to leave an abusive spouse.

211WNY has been a program of VIA for about a decade. About half to three quarters of the information specialists answering the phones are blind or visually impaired. Last year during the pandemic, call volume to 211WNY almost doubled to nearly 82,000, said Renee DiFlavio, Sr. Vice President, Development of VIA. Providing the information that callers need to link them to services is a special skill executed with assistive technology and trained listening skills.

“Certainly if you’re visually impaired, there are many jobs you can do, but call center work is a great job because of the tele-technology,” DiFlavio said. “What’s also interesting is that it might be a model eventually for people to hire people who are blind or visually impaired to work those jobs.”

a woman seated at a computer

Sharell B., a Statler Center graduate, working at the 211WNY Call Center.

Many of the people on the end of the phone lines assisting callers learned their skills at the National Statler Center. The center offers programs for training in several fields, including customer service, hospitality, food prep, software applications, and communications.

“All of the work stations have adaptive technology with a dual-input headset,” said Ray Zylinski, Assistive Technology Instructor at VIA. “You’d hear the caller in one ear, and the computer audio in your other ear. It’s not something everybody can do. You’re essentially absorbing information from two different audio sources at once.”

People who work for 211WNY become adept at entering key words related to a caller’s issue to find human service agencies that could provide the caller with assistance.

More than 100 people have gone through the technology program at VIA’s Statler Center. While some work for 211WNY, others are in jobs with companies throughout the area, the result of the placement specialists at VIA, Zylinski said.

“Statistics show that a very high percent of individuals with low vision who can find employment don’t leave that job, so the attrition rate is significantly low,” Zylinski said. “That hits employers in their wallet, and then they tend to listen.”

That ability to listen is what made heroes of VIA’s assistive technology and referral specialists when so many people were in need of help.


Angie Francalancia is a communications specialist with Johnson Scholarship Foundation

A Johnson Scholar Comes Full-Circle

After high school, I felt a true calling to attend a private Christian college. But coming from a single-parent home and living in a trailer, it was a stretch for me to be able to afford a school like Palm Beach Atlantic College. (Side note – Palm Beach Atlantic did not receive university status until after I graduated, so all past references refer to PBA College.) Though my mom worked hard for our family and wanted to see me succeed, like many families, we had limited funds available for college tuition. As I attended community college and worked a full time sales job, the dream of finishing my undergraduate degree at a private Christian school slowly started to slip away.

During the fall of 1996, I researched scholarship opportunities and decided that I was going to take the necessary steps to achieve my goal. Over the course of the following months, I applied to Palm Beach Atlantic College, was accepted for the spring semester and prepared to make the big move. The university provided scholarships and helped me through the financial aid process, making it affordable for me to enroll. The largest gift I received that enabled me to start at PBA was from the Ted/Vivian Johnson Foundation Scholarship. (Side note- I wrote Ted/Vivian Johnson Foundation Scholarship because that’s exactly how it is printed on my student account record that I recently pulled to review.) I continued to receive that same gift for the following few semesters.

At PBA, I met faculty members who cared about me and my future, and I met some of the very best friends I still have today. I also met my future wife, Rachel, at PBA, and we have been married now for almost 20 years. I grew spiritually, too. Through lots of prayer and perseverance, I graduated in 1999 with a clear plan for my future career in banking and non-profit fundraising. Fast forward 20 years, and I am now working for PBA as Director of Alumni Relations.

Students are concerned about the affordability of college tuition and student debt. They want to have clear direction and the ability to get a good job after graduation. The Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s gifts help students pursue their dreams, and I believe Palm Beach Atlantic University plays a huge role in shaping their futures. PBA and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation certainly did that for me.


Steve Eshelman is Director of Alumni Relations at Palm Beach Atlantic University

Doubting Helen Keller: Where we go from here

The following article first appeared in the Boston Globe, and is shared with permission from Perkins School for the Blind.

What TikTok users who dispute her accomplishments can learn about disability inclusion

After TikTok users spent the past year spreading viral conspiracies labeling Helen Keller as a fraud, the first film to star an actor who is deafblind is up for an Oscar. “Feeling Through,” nominated for Best Live-Action Short, follows the connection that forms between a teenager and a man who is deafblind during a chance meeting late at night in New York City.

The film, as well as the Oscar-nominated documentary “Crip Camp,” beautifully refutes ableist misperceptions that undermine the potential of individuals with disabilities. Those discriminatory beliefs emerged on TikTok last year, when scores of the app’s users ignited a trend denying the long list of achievements Helen Keller accumulated throughout her remarkable life. Their flawed logic concluded that Keller could not have authored books, spoken multiple languages, displayed good handwriting, or graduated from college because she did not have sight or hearing.

Such assumptions are dangerous because they perpetuate the false belief that people with disabilities are less capable of success than their peers. Discrediting their accomplishments can insidiously lower others’ expectations for them — or worse, the expectations they have of themselves.

Please read the remainder of the article here.


Dave Power is President and CEO of Perkins School for the Blind

High Need, High Achievement and Core Values are Keys to Developing Change-Makers

The Elevation Scholars program mines Central Florida’s Title I high schools for students exhibiting the non-profit’s core values of kindness, service, leadership, and discipline. It sets them on a course to become change-makers.

When the organization was in its foundational stages of turning concepts into an education-focused program, it couldn’t have found a better model for the kind of student it wanted to help than its first scholar – Revel Lubin.

Elevation Scholars’ founder learned about him from a news story on the Thanksgiving food drive he and other student government leaders had put together for homeless families of students at his school.

The backstory was the attention-grabber, though. Lubin and three of his siblings were being raised by their sister following their mother’s passing from an aneurysm seven years earlier. He had quit sports to get a job to help his sister pay the bills after their electricity had been cut off. He also happened to be student government president.

Kindness. Service. Leadership. Discipline.

“He had everything we were looking for,” said Scott Lee, Elevation Foundation President. “The only question we didn’t know was did he have the academics.”

He had the grades too, but he lacked the test scores and required classes that colleges typically look for.  Helping students develop a “college-going” culture would become a core tenant of Elevation Scholars’ program. The best investment would be money up front – a program that would begin when students are in 9th grade– with high-quality counseling and “intrusive advising and support.”

“We would spend a little money up front, like a down payment, and the colleges would come along and pay them many thousands in scholarships,” Lee says. “If we pick the right kid, this stuff will happen every single time. Those were our early realizations.”

Since its founding in 2013, Elevation Scholars has expanded to working with four Title I high schools where 92 percent of the students are considered low-income. Outreach to students begins with Elevation Club when students are in 9th grade. The monthly club meetings introduce them to everything they’ll need to compete for spots at some of the nation’s most selective universities.  Their goal is not just a college education but an education at one of the nation’s top 100 universities – an arena sorely lacking in college applicants who are the first in their families to attend, so-called first-generation college students.

The Elevation Scholar Award  is given to select students in their junior year – a five-year investment in the students not only to help them get to college but to guide them while they attend.

“The research is pretty clear,” Lee says. “It’s not the academics that cause first-gen kids not to succeed. It’s the idea of imposter syndrome – they feel like they don’t belong, along with limits on family financial support due to the implications of generational poverty. Little problems are impossible to overcome without outside support.”

The Elevation Scholars Award includes some earmarks not typically found in scholarship awards, like winter clothing – for a Florida kid who might get a full ride to Wake Forrest in North Carolina like the program’s second award winner – or professional clothing for joining professional organizations, travel money to ensure they have the ability to get back home for the holidays, and even gear they’ll need for dorm life. In summers, students will participate in paid internships at businesses and organizations in partnership with Elevation Scholars.

Over the next four years, Elevation Scholars, a new grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation, expects to expand into four additional schools and award 92 additional Elevation Scholar Awards by 2025.

Revel Lubin

To win an Elevation Scholar Award, it’s more than a matter of high achieving and high need, Lee says. The students selected also must exhibit Elevation Scholars’ core values – kindness, service, leadership, and discipline. “These kids have a unique set of strengths, and already are demonstrating positive community impact, and that’s really what we’re investing in,” Lee says. “The idea is ultimately to see our investment increase their capacity to impact their community.”

Since the program’s founding, seven cohorts of scholars have attended prestigious universities across the country.  And that first scholar, Revel Lubin, continues the journey he plotted under the guidance of Elevation Scholars. He’s a finalist for Central Floridian of the Year, and he attends Yale Divinity School.

“It’s amazing how many high-achieving leaders there are at our Title I schools,” Lee says.



Angie Francalancia is a communications specialist with Johnson Scholarship Foundation

 

How One School Offers an Education in Equity to a Whole City

As headlines across the country and data from a range of sources revealed this past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted everyone in the same way. In addition to disparate impacts on employment, food security, and health, communities of color have often also been impacted by unequal access to remote learning technology or in-person instruction and support.

While Nativity Prep’s students, families, and alumni have certainly faced significant challenges this past year, our school community is not new to the issue of inequity. For 30 years, Nativity has been providing a tuition-free, high-quality private educational opportunity to precisely the Boston communities that have been hit hardest in this past year.

However, it is our “from classroom to career” approach – providing an intensive extended-day, extended-year program for our fourth through eighth grade students and then lifetime graduate support programming to our alumni – that has made Nativity ready to address far more than educational inequity. In the wake of the racial unrest last summer, businesses and industries across the country have made public commitments to improving workforce diversity and building a more equitable business world. Our 30-year history has taught us that addressing economic inequity and workforce diversity starts much earlier than the hiring process. It is the combination of our rigorous educational program and extensive Graduate Support programming – made possible by support from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and partners – that prepares our students not just to access opportunities at top high schools on full scholarship, but also to gain the tools, character, and commitment needed to thrive in a business world that is not always equitable.

In a recent NBC10 Boston/NECN special feature, “An Education in Equity,” this connection between educational equity and workforce diversity was explored more deeply through the lens of Nativity Prep’s experience. The program featured prominent Black leaders in Boston: Lee Pelton, President of Emerson University and CEO-elect of the Boston Foundation; Linda Dorcena Forry. former state representative and VP for Diversity & Inclusion at Suffolk Construction; Michael Holley, NBC Sports Reporter; and several Nativity alumni, faculty, and students in conversation about Nativity Prep’s “from classroom to career” approach, which offers one valuable model for addressing the inequities that are more apparent today than ever.

Watch the entire segment by clicking the link here.


Brian Maher is President of Nativity Prep Academy.

 

San Carlos Apache Small Business Plan Competition Produces Sweet Success

Earlier this summer, I accepted an invitation to serve as one of five judges for the 2nd Annual San Carlos Apache Tribe Small Business Plan Competition. JSF supported this exercise as part of a two-year grant to the Center for American Indian Economic Development (CAIED) at Northern Arizona University in January of 2020.

Due to the pandemic, the competition was conducted over Zoom. During the week of October 12th, the judges received written business plans for the competing proposals. Contestants would pitch their proposals to judges on October 15th. Presentations were rated on marketing, product or service, competence, management capability, financial understanding and investment potential. Judges were further asked to provide written comments to the applicants. The format of the contest was modeled after the TV series “Shark Tank.”

The business ventures were varied in their industries, stages and development. They included a document scan and shred business, a coin laundromat, a children’s book proposal, a Native sewing business, a bead supply company and a sweet bread baker. Contestants were given 15 minutes to present their proposals and answer questions from the judges. All of the participants were well prepared, and the exercise was conducted well. The competition effectively promoted the intended purpose of encouraging entrepreneurial activity and education.

I was particularly struck by the resourcefulness and creativity of the applicants. The current pandemic has required them to pivot their work, and all of them had some measure of a successful testimony of adaptation. I was also struck by the resonating theme of community in all of their proposals. Many of them spoke of the benefit to others more than they addressed the viability or financial opportunity of their business. The winner was the Beaded Edge Supply with a business expansion proposal. You can see their business at www.beadededgesupply.com.

I was asked to forward a grateful thank you from the San Carlos Apache Tribe to JSF and all who participated. All participants received some remuneration. First place received $6,000 and sixth place received $100. Beaded Edge Supply will use the winning proceeds to offset the cost of a new facility to accommodate their growing business. For me, I left inspired, encouraged and appreciative for the opportunity to represent the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

But what happened next to one of the presenters makes it doubly rewarding. Frankie Holmes, the participant who made strawberry sweet bread, landed a major contract with Freeport McMoRan to provide his desserts to their employees. One of the judges works for Freeport, and was instrumental in making it happen.

Here’s Frankie’s story:

“I had heard of the business plan competition from the year before. Baking wasn’t even my thing. But writing a business plan is nothing new for me. I’ve done it numerous times.

“I hear back from the competition. They say, ‘You’re going to be presenting.’ But I didn’t get picked. I got a phone call saying I got, like fourth place. But prior to that, one of the judges reached out to me and said, ‘Your presentation was flawless. We’d like to place an order.’ I’m thinking she’s going to order like four or five loaves. No! She put in a giant order for her whole department! Now I have a contract with them for six months for their team building activities,” he said.

“Then, she put it on Facebook, and things just took off! Prior to the competition, I was doing like a few hundred (in sales) a week. Then, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I had sales galore! Thanksgiving alone was over $3,000!

“Word of mouth is very viable down here,” said Holmes, who works in Globe-Miami, an area of sister cities east of Phoenix and west of the San Carlos Reservation with a population of less than 10,000.

Holmes is a personal banker with Wells Fargo who got into baking when COVID-19 hit the town, he said.

“It hit our little town big-time,” he said. “Our whole town shut down. The banks shut down. I was out of work. I figured I could sit here, sulk and cry, or be the guy I’ve always been and find a muse. I never heard of anybody making a strawberry sweet bread, so in one weekend, I did it.”

Congratulations, Frankie Holmes!


Robert Krause is CEO of Johnson Scholarship Foundation

Planning the College Search – Contemporary Considerations for an Exciting Next Step

This article first appeared in Mainstream News, a publication of JSF grantee partner Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, and is shared with permission.

Applying to colleges can be a stressful, busy time for students — and a pandemic hasn’t made it any simpler. This year, the process has changed considerably to accommodate health precautions. Campus tours, in-person interviews, college fairs and visits from college representatives are on permanent hiatus. But with a little extra planning, students heading to college can still get all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech alum Max Collins, a high school senior and student athlete, has experience with the college search during a pandemic.

We spoke with Max Collins, a Clarke Philadelphia alum and current high school senior about what he learned during his recent college search experience. He also shared his advice for other students who are deaf or hard of hearing planning their own transitions to higher education.

Different Formats, Similar Results

Max’s junior year was marked by a challenging academic load and the cancellation of most of his spring track season. As a student athlete, running track and cross country, he’d gotten an early start on his college selection process in order to target schools with programs that would match his goals.

Max was able to visit two colleges before most schools closed to in-person visits. For the other schools, his visits consisted of a mix of virtual tours and Zoom-based question and answer sessions.

Despite the change in format, both Max and his dad, Danny Collins, feel they gained a good sense of all the colleges. “The virtual visits were actually a good way to learn more about the schools,” says Max. He felt that colleges with virtual tours were better able to individualize the information they shared in a way that wasn’t possible during in-person group tours.

Max wasn’t able to attend some of the traditional in-person events schools have for student athletes, but he was able to reach out directly to coaches who put him in touch with other athletes in his sport. Talking with them gave him a feel for potential future teammates and their routines.

Danny agrees. “Being there in person does give you a good sense of what the campus and atmosphere are like, but with the pandemic-related changes, we still had a chance to speak one-on-one with people and get to learn more about the nuts and bolts of things,” he says.

Assessing Priorities, Making Requests

As a student with hearing loss evaluating potential colleges, Max had to weigh all the usual factors in addition to assessing how well each school could accommodate his listening needs — not an easy task virtually.

Max first narrowed down his list of schools by those that felt like a good fit for his academic and athletic goals as well as being able to accommodate his hearing loss. “I had to ask myself: Do I want to go to a big school with a lecture hall of 300 students, or one with smaller classes of 10-15 students?” Max shares. “And I made sure they had a good office of accessibility, that I could get proper accommodations, and the website had a good explanation of what they offer [and] how they do it.”

The good news: Max says he hasn’t had any significant issues securing the accommodations he’ll need in future classes. He also notes that his in-person and virtual visits didn’t present any hearing-related challenges.

“The best advice I can give is to find each school’s office of accessibility, know where it is, exactly what services they offer and what you have to do to get those services,” says Danny. “It’s extremely beneficial to have that information.”

Danny also notes that while 504s and Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) don’t apply in college, some schools will use them as an accommodations guide, and some won’t. “You have to have your ducks lined up and be willing to advocate for what the student needs,” he says. “Max’s ability to do that, and why he started this process so early, all goes back to Clarke and the way they instilled those self-advocacy skills in him.”

Learn more about things to consider when planning the college search by visiting: http://www.clarkeschools.org/services/mainstreamnews.


 Clarke provides children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the listening, learning and spoken language skills they need to succeed.