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Tag Archive for: disability education

Landmark College Student Excels in Education

Sam Mayo smiles for the camera, sitting on a park bench. He is wearing a light blue shirt, a patterned blue tie, and navy pants. He has short blond hair.

This article was originally published in the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s 2023 annual report about Landmark College, a grantee partner of the foundation. Click here to read more content from the annual report.

Sam Mayo, a person with autism, had a significant speech impediment as a young boy. As he got older, school became more of a challenge. By junior high, he had been labeled a troublemaker. 

“His communication skills made it difficult for people to understand him,” his mother Stephanie Mayo said. “He would zone out but then come back, and Sam didn’t want to raise his ideas or questions. One teacher thought he was an incredible kid, but everyone else came down on him. That was heartbreaking.” 

Stephanie knew her son’s education was at stake, so she enrolled him in a homeschool resource center in their hometown of Lexington, South Carolina. When it was time to think about Sam’s future, Stephanie had to face a new challenge. She learned about Landmark College’s dual enrollment program from her sister, who taught science at the homeschool center. 

In 2022, the Mayos visited Landmark College to learn about the online dual enrollment program, which JSF helps fund through a matching grant. Located in Putney, Vermont, the college provides highly accessible learning approaches to individuals who learn differently. 

“I looked all over. Many schools had a department for kids who learn differently—but these kids don’t have a neon sign,” said Stephanie, explaining that not every student learns the same way. “As soon as we got on campus, I knew what Landmark was about. It was an easy decision.” 

“He was excited and also a bit apprehensive about dual enrollment, college-level education,” she wrote in an email. “[Landmark went] out of their way to make him feel heard, accepted, and understood.” 

Just two weeks after Sam started taking classes, his attitude toward schoolwork changed. That fall, Stephanie learned about the Johnson Scholarship. 

“We knew the tuition cost—we were looking at the yearly tab thinking, ‘Oh, help!’” she recalled. “The scholarship covered nearly all of the costs, and gave Sam the opportunity to get to know Landmark’s style and prepare for an actual college experience.” 

“As soon as we got on campus, I knew what Landmark was about. It was an easy decision.”

Sam is currently a freshman* at Landmark, where he says he’s glad to be near other students with autism. Sending a child to college is a big change for any parent. Still, Stephanie says she feels safe knowing her son is at Landmark. 

“For the first time in his life, [Sam] is interested in his own education and pushing himself,” she said. “We are so proud of him, and I tell him that all the time.”

 

 

Sam Mayo was a freshman at the time this article was written.

Recognizing National Disability Employment Awareness Month

This article was written by I. King Jordan Jr., Disability Programs Consultant at Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This year I had the opportunity to take part in an excellent Disability Mentoring Day event sponsored by Bender Consulting. Attendees included previous mentees, current mentors and numerous supporters.  There were activities that brought together students and employers for informal sessions about career opportunities and mentoring with volunteers at public and private places of employment. One statement at the beginning of the program resonated with me. Joyce Bender, founder and CEO of Bender Consulting said, “We don’t need a disability employment awareness month—we have plenty of awareness. What we need is a disability employment month!”

In one way, Joyce Bender was absolutely right. We certainly need more jobs for people with disabilities. In another way, we still do need more awareness. There are many barriers that must be overcome in order for people with disabilities to achieve jobs.

One of the most important barriers is the lack of knowledge of what disabled people can do. Too often the focus is on the disability—what a person cannot do, instead of what that person can do. Negative attitudes about people with disabilities and ignorance about their abilities too often prevent a genuine interview, much less a job offer.

In 1990 the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed promising greater access and employment for people with disabilities. It was an exciting time and many of us looked forward with anticipation to the positive changes that would result from this very important law. We have been seriously disappointed.  The employment rate of people with disabilities has barely ticked upward in more than 30 years since the passage of this landmark legislation.

The board and leadership of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation are very much aware of the statistics that show how adults with disabilities are much more likely to be unemployed than those without disabilities. The Foundation is committed to supporting programs that will help people with disabilities achieve educational success and ultimately employment. Some of the grantees supported by the Foundation serve children in school programs, from preschool through college. Some of the grantees serve young adults and help them acquire first jobs or serve young adults who are employed.

While we can see progress among our grantees, it is clear that there is much more work to do in order to lower the unemployment rate of people with disabilities and help support the ultimate goal of parity between the employment of people with and people without disabilities. It will be good to focus on national disability employment. Focus on jobs, not just awareness.

 

For more information about the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s work in funding programs for people with disabilities, click here.

Exploring Hearing Loss in Her Homeland

This story was originally written by Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, a grantee partner of JSF. It is shared here with permission.

Sofia, a Clarke Alum with Hearing Loss, Advances a Global Research Project

Sofia, an alumna of Clarke Schools, smiles for the camera. She has dark brown curly hair and is wearing a dark blue sweatshirt while holding a bouquet of orange-red flowers.Meet Sofia, who is currently pursuing a Liberal Arts Degree at Smith College. Sofia was born with hearing loss in Guatemala and adopted by her current family in the United States. Years ago, she attended Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech’s Preschool Program in Philadelphia to learn to listen and talk. Since its founding in 1867, Clarke’s teachers of the deaf, speech-language pathologists and audiologists have taught thousands of children who are deaf or hard of hearing the listening, learning and spoken language skills to succeed in mainstream schools and the wider world.

Children served by Clarke use advanced technologies, including cochlear implants and hearing aids, to maximize their access to sound. Following her graduation from Clarke in 2010, Sofia excelled in elementary and high school.

Entering her senior year of high school, Sofia was tasked with researching a global issue and interviewing experts in the field relative to the issue. Sofia decided to research the global effects of hearing loss, focusing on her birth country, Guatemala, and interviewed Judy Sexton, MS, CED LSLS Cert AVEd, Clarke’s head of programs and schools and interim president.

To further enrich the conversation, Judy connected Sofia with Paige Stringer, founder and executive director of the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss.

“I asked questions about Paige’s work, how our country’s healthcare differs from other countries, along with how mainstreaming children with hearing loss can be hard on both the children and parents,” explains Sofia.

Through her international research, Sofia discovered there is only one professionally trained audiologist in Guatemala, Dr. Paty Castellanos.

Judy and Paige also connected Sofia with Paty to deepen her research and overall learning experience.

After Sofia’s insightful conversation with Paty, discussing the need for more Guatemala-native hearing loss professionals, Sofia discovered her passion for interviewing and researching within the international relations field and beyond. She says, “I hope to dedicate my time researching global challenges, how the world is changing environmentally and how to find ways to save our environment.”

Sofia is a recipient of Clarke’s Caroline A. Yale Memorial Fund Scholarship, designed to support the continuing education of Clarke students. Sofia intends to use the funds to fuel her academic ventures.

Philanthropy Lifts the Disability Resource Center and Students it Serves

The following article first appeared in Florida International University’s newsletter, and it is shared here with permission.

Many students face daunting challenges when they enter college: academic difficulties, financial problems, and major and career choices, just to name a few. Some students face additional challenges that require customized learning services and individualized attention. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) at FIU helps ensure that students with special needs have access to needed guidance and services to help them succeed.

The DRC serves more than 3,600 FIU students and strives to promote their success by working in collaboration with community stakeholders, students, faculty, staff, and administrators to foster diverse learning environments that are accessible, usable, inclusive, and sustainable. Private philanthropy is essential for the DRC to provide these services, and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation is among the key organizations whose support has helped the center expand its services and reach more students across campus.

“Our partnership with FIU is a testament to the achievements that students with disabilities can attain when they have the resources they need,” said Robert A. Krause, CEO of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. “FIU is among the institutions leading the way to ensure accessibility.”

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s support of nearly $2.2 million to FIU over the past decade has funded nearly 1,200 scholarships to 650 students. The Foundation also funds scholarships to students with disabilities at all the other universities in the State University System of Florida. According to DRC Director Amanda Niguidula, “the Johnson Scholarship Foundation has opened countless doors for our hard-working students associated with the DRC.”

Christy England, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the State University System of Florida, added: “The State University System of Florida is passionate about student success. We are grateful for the community support our institutions receive, which betters outcomes and enables longer-lasting impacts for our students.”

Analia Camarda

Marc Buoniconti, a well-known community leader and philanthropist who has had a national impact on disability awareness, recently created a new endowment to assist students. This endowment will enable eligible FIU learners to graduate on time and enter their profession of choice. Buoniconti, the founder of the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center, is a national leader in fostering support to cure paralysis. “My passion is to give hope to countless students who have the will and drive to succeed but lack the financial resources to cover their costs,” he said.

FIU junior cybersecurity major Analia Camarda, who is deaf, is just one of many students benefitting from Johnson Scholarship Foundation support, which helped bridge a financial gap she experienced. Camarda was able to surmount the special learning obstacles presented during the COVID-19 pandemic and to keep pace with classwork using sign language interpreters, live captioning computer apps, and the assistance of professional note-takers.

With a passion for networking with her peers and having participated in multiple tech-based internships – including at Microsoft and Sentinel One – Camarda is well on her way to achieving her dream of working for a major tech firm. She is also actively involved on campus, participating in student organizations such as Women in Cybersecurity and Upsilon Pi Epsilon, and she is an inductee of multiple honor societies.

Roger Bendana

Junior Roger Bendana credits a Johnson Scholarship with helping him concentrate on his studies and to pursue his passion for working with animals by participating in the summer biology program at Zoo Miami.

“The scholarship really helped me to just stay focused on school and not have to worry about work,” Bendana noted.

He said the DRC has been a great support system that connected him to support networks across campus, such as the Peer Mentorship Program – which he found so valuable that he intends to become a peer mentor himself now that he is an upperclassman.

“Generous donors like the Johnson Foundation and Marc Buoniconti provide the critical resources to ensure that every FIU student can attain success,” Niguidula said. “We are thankful for their support to our students and the DRC, which will enable them to have better and more meaningful lives as a result.”

 

 


Todd Ellenberg is Director of Campaign Communication for the Florida International University Foundation.

 

Grant Makes International Experiences Possible for Students with Disabilities

Mount Allison University is a liberal arts school in rural Atlantic Canada that is consistently ranked as offering our country’s best undergraduate education. What I’m most proud of is that the University has a long tradition of supporting students with disabilities and a strong commitment to innovating how education can be more accessible. I work in this area everyday as the Director of Accessibility and Student Wellness. As a part of this role, I manage the Meighen Centre, which is the University’s centre for supporting students with disabilities.

This year, Mount Allison launched a brand-new international opportunity. Fifteen students and two staff travelled to Utrecht, Netherlands, for a  a two-week, for-credit field school led by the Department of Psychology. Of the 15 students, 10 identified as having a disability. Thanks to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, I was able to travel with this group to support their individual learning and accessibility needs, ensuring students from a traditionally disadvantaged group had access to this unique educational opportunity and were able to fully participate.

After the experience, I asked students their reflections about the trip. One of the most notable responses from a participant was that they thought it was important for others to know that at Mount Allison students with accessibility needs can and will be accommodated even when taking our classrooms abroad. This is something I am so proud our University is committed to doing.

For many of the participating students, it was their first time travelling abroad. One of those students was Nathan McIver, who shared that the entire trip — from the application process and travel itself to the connections he made and continues to stay in touch with — was an experience that built his confidence and was life changing.

“It shaped me as a person,” says Nathan. “I’m so grateful for the whole opportunity and the people I met. I just hope more students get an opportunity like this.” Nathan shared that among his favourite experiences were a kayak trip through the canals of Utrecht, visiting restaurants and cafes owned by local farmers, and making excursions to other nearby cities and countries. A member of Nathan’s family had also perished on a battlefield in the Netherlands during the Second World War, and he had the opportunity to visit the site.

Nathan expressed appreciation for the help with notetaking when attending large classes at Utrecht University and shared that the faculty leading the trip and classes were very open and allowed students new to international travel and study to ask questions whenever they were unsure.

Funding from donors and government make this and similar field schools possible. Other upcoming field schools include a Religious Studies course in Kyoto, Japan, and a Biology Course on the Galapagos Islands. Our Department of Psychology will also be offering another field school in the Netherlands next year. Thanks to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Meighen Centre support staff will be able to accompany students and provide accessibility supports. We are deeply appreciative to the Foundation for helping our students achieve their educational and personal goals, plan brighter futures, and make a difference in the world.


Matt Maston is the Director of Accessibility and Student Wellness at Mount Allison University.