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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.

Teleservices: Making Listening and Spoken Language Services More Accessible to Families

Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech provides children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the listening, learning and spoken language skills they need to succeed. Annually, nearly 1,000 children and their families benefit from programs and services at locations throughout the East Coast. But our reach goes beyond our physical locations.

Clarke’s tVISIT (teleservices Virtual Intervention Services for Infants and Toddlers) Program makes it possible for families to receive life-changing services from teachers of the deaf, speech-language pathologists and early childhood specialists—at home.

Young girl in red dress

This has been a game changer for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, like six-year-old Alison. Her mom, Sara, who struggled to find local listening and spoken language support, explains:

“Clarke has shown us that with hard work and access to resources, children can excel in listening and spoken language. Clarke came into our home weekly via teleservices from the time Alison was implanted [with cochlear implants] until she was three years old. Clarke has been such an integral part of our journey and Alison’s success.”

Sara is not alone in her experience: 97 percent of caregivers in Clarke’s teleservices program say it makes Clarke services more accessible to their family, and 93 percent report it has increased their confidence in their ability to help their child.

“Clarke has shown us that with hard work and access to resources, children who are deaf or hard of hearing can excel in listening and spoken language,” shares Sara. “They can be mainstreamed and learn alongside their hearing peers. Our children are simply differently abled, not disabled.”

Throughout their tVISIT sessions, Alison and her family worked with Jeana Novak, MA, MED, LSLS Cert AVEd, Coordinator of the Early Intervention Program at Clarke Philadelphia, who is shown in the photo above.

“Miss Jeana was able to model strategies for us in the beginning to use in everyday life,” notes Sara. “She encouraged us when progress seemed slow and celebrated with us when new milestones were reached. As Alison began to excel with her implants, Miss Jeana knew how to challenge her without frustrating her.”

Today, Alison loves playing t-ball and doing cartwheels. She is proudly attending a mainstream school and dreams of being a “mommy construction worker” when she grows up!

From July 2018 through June 2019, Clarke led more than 1,500 tVISIT sessions with families. This broad reach and progress like Alison’s is not possible without support from donors and funders like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. This funding is vital in helping Clarke professionals provide services to more families.

Cindy Goldberg is the Chief Development Officer for Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. She’s dedicated her career to helping children and communities thrive through strategic fundraising efforts. 

‘Hearing But Deaf All the Same’

This essay originally appeared in The Washington Post.

On the deafness scale of mild, moderate, severe or profound, I am profoundly deaf. With the help of cochlear implants, I am able to “hear” and speak. The devices are complicated to explain, but basically, external sound processors, worn behind the ears, send a digital signal to the implants, which convert the signal to electric impulses that stimulate the hearing nerve and provide sound signals to the brain. The implants allow me to attend my middle school classes with few accommodations, but I’m still quite different from people who hear naturally. When my implant processors are turned off, I don’t hear anything.

I regard myself as a deaf person, and I am proud to be among those who live with deafness, yet I often feel rejected by some of these same people. My use of cochlear implants and lack of reliance on American Sign Language (I use it but am not fluent — I primarily speak) are treated like a betrayal by many in the Deaf — capital-D — community. In the view of many who embrace Deaf culture, a movement that began in the 1970s, those who are integrated into the hearing world through technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, myself included, are regarded as “not Deaf enough” to be a part of the community.

People deaf from birth or through illness or injury already face discrimination. I wish we didn’t practice exclusion among ourselves. But it happens, and it’s destructive.

Those in the Deaf community tend to think of deafness as a defining factor of who they are and how they live. Many have never heard anything and have never communicated by speaking. That is a different experience from mine, but, in the end, none of us can hear without assistance. I think much of the tension between the Deaf and the deaf stems from this inability to completely experience each other’s lives.

Deaf child holding a toy and pointingMany Deaf people, and hearing people, think of cochlear implants as a “solution” to deafness. It isn’t. The technology simply helps me live with my deafness in a certain way. My parents decided to get cochlear implants for me when I was a year old because they felt that I would have an easier life with them. Whether this is true or not I’ll never know. But in making the decision, my parents debated many pros and cons of cochlear implants. It is a debate that tens of thousands of parents have had since the implants became a practical option in the 1980s.

My parents felt that the implants would give me more opportunities, but they worried that my having them would close off my access to a Deaf identity. They worried I would be rebuffed by Deaf people who did not understand what it’s like to live with cochlear implants.

I’m sorry to say that my parents were right. They hired a Deaf ASL teacher to work with me when I was only a few months old, but she stopped coming after she found out that I would be getting cochlear implants. When I was a toddler, I was unwelcome in an ASL playgroup. My parents did eventually find a Deaf ASL teacher who respected my family’s choice. I’ve dealt with hearing people not understanding my deafness — staring at the equipment, asking insensitive questions, congratulating me on “passing” in the hearing world — and I’ve dealt with Deaf people denying it. I’m glad to be part of my school community, acting in plays, singing (and signing) in the chorus and studying spoken French, and I’m grateful for all that I can access because of my cochlear implants. Still, I avoid swimming with hearing friends and attending sleepovers because I need to take my implant processors off in water and for sleeping.

white crumpled paper

I recently found a crumpled piece of paper I wrote on four years ago, when I was 10. It read: “There is a color between yellow and green that no one can agree on: I think of cochlear implants — hearing but deaf all the same.” I will always feel separated from the hearing world in important ways; I have also had to live with feeling excluded by a community that might have provided assurance that I wasn’t alone, that others felt the same way.

I hope that in the future, deaf children — regardless of whether they wear technology, speak or sign — will grow up with a sense of being accepted. To achieve that, we in the deaf world need to see each other for our similarities, accept that we may never agree on this issue, and start working together.

Juliet is a ninth grade student in Massachusetts, and a former student at JSF grantee partner Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. She enjoys drawing, acting and playing Ultimate Frisbee.

Unwrapping the Gift of Potential at Clarke

The spirit of the season filled the classrooms on a recent day at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Jacksonville, Florida.

Clarke Schools LogoIn one class, a teacher led her energetic preschoolers in an assignment that involved decorating a Christmas tree. Later that morning, a student practiced her language skills by reading her letter to Santa aloud to a group of visitors. Schoolwide, classes were preparing for an upcoming holiday concert.

Other than the hearing aids and cochlear implants worn by the children, the scene was no different than in any other preschool anywhere.

Administrators at Clarke know that visitors are sometimes surprised when they visit one of their campuses for the first time. In a post for Giving Matters earlier this year, Chief Development Officer Lillian Rountree challenged anyone new to Clarke to “just spend a few moments with our preschoolers to see—and hear—the potential.”

Young girl holding a toy out for a womanFor me as a first-time visitor, that definitely was the case, even though I was aware that Clarke is where deaf and hard of hearing children learn to listen and speak.

Clarke has been involved in this work for some time. In fact, 2017 has been a year of celebration for Clarke, which has been serving deaf children and those with hearing loss for 150 years. Its Jacksonville location also celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.

Indeed, there is much to celebrate. Clarke serves more than 1,300 children annually at its five campuses along the East Coast. In addition to the one in Jacksonville, there are campuses in Boston and Northampton, Massachusetts; New York, New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Clarke has the ability to reach thousands more children and their families through programs like its Early Intervention Program and its Telepractice Virtual Intervention Services for Infants and Toddlers, or tVISIT. Through tVISIT, Clarke can serve families in distant locations through video conferencing.

Young girl reading a paper while teacher watchesJSF provided financial support for the tVISIT program. Over the past 10 years, the Foundation has provided grants for many other purposes as well, including residential scholarships, website upgrades and support of the Early Intervention Program.

I was excited to learn that in addition to the tVISIT program, another way in which Clarke reaches beyond its borders is by providing internships for student teachers who are interested in working with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some 60 education students from Florida colleges and universities complete their practicum requirements at Clarke Jacksonville each year, helping to fill a need for skilled teachers of the deaf.

Not surprisingly, the leadership at Clarke Jacksonville can attest to many success stories. Co-Director Alisa Demico has been at the site since it was founded two decades ago, and she remains in touch with many of the students who were in the very first preschool class. Today, most of those students either have graduated or are attending college, she said.

That is likely welcome news for many Clarke parents. For them, a bright future for their children is not just a holiday wish. At Clarke, it is becoming reality, each and every day.