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Finding Common Ground: Mount Allison Student Aims to Help Share Indigenous Voices

Lucas Waye knows what it’s like to be on the margins. After diving into Indigenous studies at Mount Allison University (MtA), he’s ready to serve others experiencing similar challenges.

Growing up in Sackville, New Brunswick, Waye feels like he was pre-destined to attend MtA. His mother, Susan, has also worked as the college’s accessibility services advisor for as long as he can remember.

Despite being in honors, Waye used to struggle with his grades. As a person with dysgraphia, he would often receive poor marks, even if his answers were correct—because his teachers could not read his handwriting. In high school, he learned more about MtA, including internship opportunities at the Meighen Centre, which offers services and accommodations to students with disabilities. The Johnson Scholarship Foundation has provided a matching challenge grant to support academic and work experiences for students with disabilities served by MtA’s Meighen Centre.

Now in his third year and excelling in classes, Waye will be the first student at Mount Allison to earn a double major in Indigenous studies and political science. Only one other student is pursuing Indigenous studies, an interdisciplinary program that must be pre-approved by the university. Waye credits his success to MtA’s accessibility services, small class sizes, and supportive environment.

“The university offers a whole slew of accommodations,” says Waye, who is also on the dean’s list. “I can take a test by talking to the computer, which will write [the answers] for me—so I don’t have to struggle or lose marks.”

Waye recalls the moment he realized his enrollment at MtA was meant to be, after completing a particular class project.

“I’m very meticulous with my work,” Waye explains. “I spent a ridiculous amount of time [on the project] for my Indigenous Research Ethics course. I went the extra mile.”

He adds that it was the hardest experience in college yet.

“When I finished the presentation, my professor looked at me and said it was amazing—and that she wanted to be invited to my dissertation,” he beams. “It felt good because I put a lot of work into it.”

Waye’s first encounter with Indigenous studies was in high school while taking a Mi’kmaq language class. But in his first year at Mount Allison, he declared a major in political science, unsure of his future. That same year, he took Introduction to Indigenous Studies, a class that turned out to be incredibly difficult.

“The way the language is, the words and how theyre broken down, you can feel the culture bleeding through the language,” says Waye. He also took an elective called Traditional Ecological Knowledge—but this time, something was different.

“For me, it quickly became about the content of the course. I wanted to learn more,” he says. “You learn about how Indigenous cultures and methodologies are integrated with nature and have this [holistic] approach. They hold so much knowledge that we are ignoring.”

Though Waye is not Indigenous, he feels a parallel connection to the community, identifying as transgender. Like many historically marginalized groups, Waye says he fears his voice—and rights—may someday disappear.

“The more I listen, learn, meet people, and read, the more connected to the cause I feel,” he says. “Hope rests in Indigenous voices and ideas.”

After graduating, Waye wants to pursue postgraduate research. He’d like to work with Indigenous women, revitalizing their traditional ecological knowledge in Canadian literature. Still, he says it’s not about his efforts—it’s about working hand-in-hand with the communities.

“Im there to listen,” he says. “Historically, women’s voices have been underrepresented or misrepresented, and [that] is a huge disservice. I want to preserve and document the knowledge with these communities.”

While reflecting on his time at MtA, Waye recalls the importance of applying oneself and making the most out of college.

“I cut out this degree for myself, but I had to find it,” he says. “University students [often] see it as a way to get a job and then make money, but [they] should see it as a way to grow a different set of skills. You have this opportunity to make a path for yourself. If you pursue what you want with intentionality, hard work, and critical thinking, you can succeed.”

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.

A LEAP Ahead for Hearing-Impaired Students

One of the challenges teenagers who are deaf and hard of hearing frequently face is connecting and interacting with other teens with hearing loss. If not addressed, that challenge can lead to isolation and a lack of self-confidence. A new program of The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) called LEAP (Leadership Experiences and Adventure Program), established with the support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, helps high school students who use Listening and Spoken Language connect virtually with peers just like them. The program is led by adults who are deaf and are achieving their potential. LEAP helps teens become more self-aware while acquiring capacity in leadership, self-advocacy, technology, work and life skills. Students who participate in LEAP learn more about themselves and their personal strengths and are excited to see how they can use their strengths to develop and achieve their future goals.

AG Bell has hosted three LEAP sessions so far this year in May, July, and September. To date, 87 students registered for LEAP from 21 different states and 6 different countries. Each session offered 5 ½ hours of engaging and informative interaction led by Catharine McNally, AG Bell’s past president, as well as six additional facilitators who are graduates of the long-standing LOFT (Leadership Opportunities for Teens) program, which strengthens leadership potential in students with hearing loss. Participants worked with facilitators in small group sessions where they connected with each other on a more personal level, and more easily engaged in self-exploration and discussion.

Guest speaker Ceil Weatherman, a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, used the students’
“homework” of completing the Clifton Strengths Assessment to highlight the strengths of each student and the value that each brings to social, education and work environments. LEAP teens learned that people in their “strength zones” experience positive energy, are more likely to achieve their goals, are more confident, perform better at work, experience less stress and have more positive moments. Keeping their strengths in mind, the teens explored how their personal strengths can help them use technology more effectively, advocate more efficiently and plan for the future.

At the end of the two-day, virtual session, students were asked to share what they learned. Here is what a few of the students shared:

 “I learned when a person uses his Clifton Strengths, he is more successful at work and/or school.” (Anonymous)

 “One thing I plan to do differently now that I have done LEAP is advocate for myself more.” (Rachel, age 16)

 “[The Mentors] were amazing and showed us how we can be successful in the future.” (Anonymous)

 “I just wanted to thank AG Bell for choosing me for this LEAP program because it made me a better person and gave me a confidence to embrace my hearing loss.” (Leah, age 17)

“I learned that I am not alone in my hearing loss journey and that to get the best experiences I apply my values and strengths in everything I do in life.” (Anonymous)

“How to advocate for myself.” (Paul, age 17)

“I plan to use my hearing equipment in different and more creative ways.” (Anonymous)

“Use our strengths to discover our interests.” (Kiana, age 15)

“[I’m] inspired to pursue my future career by using my strengths.” (Nathan, age 15)

Through the generosity of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and other supporters, LEAP is offered free of charge to high school students. Six sessions will be scheduled throughout 2022, offered every other month. AG Bell offers placement of up to 50 students per session with a goal of 350 total participants. For more information and to apply to attend LEAP, please visit www.AGBellLEAP.com or email us at LEAP@agbell.org.


Julie Schulte is the Teen Programs Coordinator for the AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

FAMU’s CeDAR Office Empowers Students with Disabilities to Take Charge of Their Education

The following item first appeared in The Famuan.

The Center for Disability Access and Resources (CeDAR) is positioned to aid students with learning, psychological and physical disabilities.

CeDAR is a resource center to provide support-programs and reasonable accommodations to students who seek help to broaden their skills and to gain personal, academic and professional development.

There are currently more than 600 students who are registered with the CeDAR office. The center administers service to the main campus as well as satellite campuses.

The program director, Deborah Sullivan, is an advocate for students.

“Our mission is to provide enriching support programs, services and reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. We also try to foster a sense of empowerment by educating them about their legal rights and responsibilities. We want them to make informed choices, be critical thinkers and self-advocate, and then we want to make sure our students have the same access to programs, opportunities and activities available to any other student at Florida A&M University,” she said.

I’m a student who was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and a learning disability for math. I never was incapable of learning material that other students had learned, I just tend to learn, process and perform at my own gradual pace, as opposed to the average student who performs at a faster rate.

A-Chai'a Jackson
A-Chai’a Jackson

Tia Huie, a registered CeDAR student and work-study facilitator at the center, shared her perspective.

“I feel like the center has an impact on me because, at first, I was not a CeDAR student. You have those students who have learning disabilities and when you think about how hard and time-consuming college work can be, to have a place that helps them through the process is empowering,” she said.

This is inclusive too: extra time on tests, transport mobility, different testing locations, tape recordings, tutoring and other support services.

The CeDAR office has done a persistent, commendable job in assisting me; from providing a safe space, extra time on tests, free printing, computer usage, and accommodating me with letters to inform my professors about my academic needs.

The program outreach coordinator, Joshua Lowder, gave more insight on what his duties are as it pertains to assisting registered CeDAR students.

“I work here as the program outreach coordinator, and what I do is work with incoming freshmen and also work with sophomores that are here from the College Study Skills Institute (CSSI), and how I help them is I plan different activities and also help plan things around what CeDAR does, in terms of student game nights or student engagement and I try to also work on community pieces to help us bridge the gap and let people know we are here at the university to help students who may have learning, physical, psychological, cognitive or mental disabilities,” he said.

A-Chai’a Jackson of Bushnell, Florida, is a third-year broadcast journalism major at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). He is a registered CeDAR student with a learning disability who serves as Mr. Transfer Student Association (TSA), a staff writer for the FAMUAN and a staff writer and copy editor for FAMU Journey Magazine.