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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

Medical Mentorship: Creating Space at Dalhousie

The following article first appeared on Dalhousie University’s blog site of the Global Health Office and is shared with permission.

Kwe’! My name is Mercedes Stemm, and I’m a Mi’kmaq woman born and raised in Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation, New Brunswick. I’m in my last year of my Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Indigenous Studies. Since 2019, I have been the Program Assistant for the Indigenous Health in Medicine (IHIM) Program within the Global Health Office. In my position, I am part of many different projects, events, committees, and initiatives. In addition, I had the wonderful opportunity to create my own program. Upon arriving at the Global Health Office, the Director asked me what I believe Indigenous students interested in medicine need to succeed at Dalhousie. I was tasked to explore ideas about potential new supports and programs. After discussions with colleagues and friends, a proposal was developed to create a mentorship program. The program proposed to connect Indigenous medical and health professional students with Indigenous undergraduate students aspiring to become health professionals. After a year of planning, we were able to pilot this program in September 2020 with the Bachelor of Medical Sciences program and in collaboration with PLANS (Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians).

This pilot mentorship program is part of a larger collaboration between Dalhousie University and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF). The Foundation is based in Florida but has many ties to Nova Scotia. Last year it partnered with Dalhousie on a matching gifts program to help Indigenous and Black Nova Scotian students pursue studies in health care through pathways programs. It committed to match up to $1 million in donations to Dalhousie over five years. This collaboration has allowed Dalhousie University to advance our commitment to ensuring Indigenous and African Nova Scotian students participate in education and careers in the health professions.

The creation of this Pilot Mentorship Program is to establish and enhance connections for Black and Indigenous students with other Black and Indigenous students, faculty, and/or professionals by providing guidance through academic and professional development. Increased supports have been shown to improve completion rates of programs, decrease student stress levels, and increase self-efficacy.

The main purpose of this program is to reduce and eliminate barriers to underrepresented students exploring their full potential as learners. The Faculty of Medicine was responsible for organizing the mentorship match between the student/mentee and mentor. Student mentees who were matched with a mentor were then encouraged to take leadership in the relationship to ensure that they were able to get the most value from their experience.

The pilot program consists of five undergraduate Bachelor of Medical Sciences students in their first or second year of study. They were matched with mentors in their last year of their Medical Science degree, medical students, and graduate students. The structure of the program consists of relationship building, skill-building through workshops, and celebration through events. Workshops do not only focus on skills development, but also cultural knowledge and engagement. The program has space for online discussions and reflections, and students have one-on-one time, both with mentors and program coordinators, to discuss topics and ask questions.

The overall goal of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation Mentorship program is to increase representation of Indigenous students in medicine through recruitment, community collaboration, and partnership. This mentorship program will help achieve those goals. Our hope is that students will come out of the program with lifelong connections, knowledge, and supports.

Read more about Dalhousie’s Medical Mentorship programs at the following links:

Medical Mentorship Part 1: Ottawa Supports Indigenous Student Success

Medical Mentorship Part 2: Student Perspective

Medical Mentorship Part 4: Professional and Cultural Connections


Mercedes Stemm is Program Assistant for the Indigenous Health in Medicine Program at Dalhousie University

Mentorship Matters. Give, Receive and Give Again

This post originally appeared on the Helios Education Foundation blog.

Although the holiday season has ended and we have turned the page on another year, our opportunity to give goes on. 

January is National Mentoring Month, a time on the calendar to honor the life-long impact that a knowledgeable and committed mentor can have upon a student. 

When an individual decides to become a mentor there is no magic formula for success or, even, a guarantee of accomplishment. There is, however, the pride you feel when your mentee takes on a challenge with conviction; the fulfillment of purpose that confirms your investment of time and energy enabled your mentee to reach beyond what she originally set out to accomplish, and the resulting successes that then fuel her greater purpose. 

Helios Education Foundation is proud to support partners who share this commitment and incorporate mentoring into their student support programs. In Arizona, our partner Be A Leader Foundation, works to increase the number of college-going students in Arizona by providing them with the tools and resources needed to become college bound, focused and prepared through leadership training and mentoring.  Peer mentors are matched with college-bound students to help take the necessary steps to enter and complete postsecondary education.  For example, mentors help students prepare and take the ACT or SAT, complete college applications, identify and apply for scholarships, and complete the FAFSA. 

Take Stock in Children, a Florida-based partner, identifies high potential, low-income middle-school students and engages them in a success program that ultimately leads to a college scholarship. Upon selection, students and their parents or guardians sign contracts agreeing to fulfill specific performance standards. Students are held to high expectations and with the guidance of advocates and their mentors are accountable for their own success in the program. To be awarded their scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime- and drug-free, and meet with their mentors once a week.

Having benefited from the guidance and friendship of a mentor, I know first-hand the influence he has had on my life. As I started my career, my mentor not only took time to explain the protocol of a professional work environment, he taught me numerous intangible lessons – lessons that I’ve passed on to others. It’s those character-building lessons that have shaped my professional life, and I am deeply appreciative of them and of him.   

Again, although the holiday season has ended, we can still give. 

If you can, take the time to mentor a high school student, a college student, or a young professional. The impact you will have on that one individual, and the numerous people he will influence in the future, is immeasurable. That’s an accomplishment worth honoring all month long. 

Receive the Helios Education Foundation newsletter to learn more about our work in both Arizona and Florida. Sign up here. 

Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the organization, cultivating strong community relationships and initiating strategic partnerships in Arizona and Florida for the Foundation. He brings more than 25 years of public and private professional experience to his leadership role with the Foundation. Prior to his role at Helios, he served as President of Valley of the Sun United Way, where he led a community-wide fundraising effort approaching $50 million.