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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.