Adrian Becomes Prefect!
We would like to congratulate Adrian on becoming prefect! Adrian, who is profoundly deaf and is in Year 11, attended our last program. He said the "Leadership Enrichment" workshop encouraged him to successfully try out for a prefect role at his school.
Adrian now wants to share his story in the hope of encouraging other young deaf people to have a goal by showing that "nothing is impossible" - a new motto he has developed since participating in the Hear For You program.
As my school principal read out the names of the successfully elected prefects and called my name, I was really proud of myself. Now I'm a member of the leadership team of my school for 2009/10. My friends congratulated me on my effort. I couldn't hide my grin. This is one of the highlights in my lifetime. But let us rewind to when I was in Year 7.
I was a nobody, ashamed about my hearing loss. I had no friends as I started a mainstream selective high school. My popularity from primary school was forgotten as I started secondary school with no self esteem and no confidence. It was only then that I became involved in peer support activities. I found it very difficult to communicate but I did not tell my peers about my hearing loss because I was embarrassed. Even I was frightened to carry the FM to the teachers since they had no experience with this. As the years went by, I made friends in my class and I realised that I needed to build a social network.
Using MSN and recently Facebook, I was able to make more friends easily without having to be nervous to confront and mumble words. My friends have learned about my hearing loss and have tried to help me. Friends can help define who you are - not by intelligence or sporting achievements. With the support of my friends and teachers, my confidence was soaring high and I did not let them down.
Hear For You has also aided me in exceeding my potential. I learned that other deaf peers were also facing the same problems as I have endured. By sharing experiences and information between deaf teenagers and mentors, I have found new innovative ways to assist me towards my future and the work place.
Some activities, mainly "The Hear For You Presidential Debate" and "Leader of My Country" where my group did one-minute speeches at intervals helped boost my confidence. These activities helped me communicate with others about my thoughts and ideas. Being able to listen to those who also struggle to meet their demands associated with hearing loss made me realise that we all personally have room for improvement.
Honestly, my favourite activity was "The Hear For You Presidential Debate" as I battled stage fright. In the end, I conquered my personal demons about having to present in front of a large audience.
When I nominated myself for the prefect role this year, I did not expect to achieve it. However, Hear For You and my friendships brought about the unimaginable. I now look forward to the future and to enjoying a fantastic time promoting my school.
I would like to thank my Hear For You mentors, Dave Brady (seen on the right) and Kate Locke, for helping me build a positive attitude and my self-esteem. Special mention goes to Olivia Andersen who started the Hear For You program.
I hope that my story will inspire others regarding their goals in the future.
Excerpt from Kate Locke
So, on the morning after my cochlear implant surgery, I am sitting up in my hospital bed, checking my sms's and emails.
And in pops an email from one of my mentees. I mentor the Year 11 and 12s, and they are such a wonderful group of kids. I really love them. And I can see myself reflected in them so clearly - everything that I went through in high school - I always just want them to know that they are not alone, and can do anything they want. We are always on about how deafness is not a disability, but a difference, and that they can be leaders, and have brilliant careers etc etc.
So, anyway - this email comes in . and it says something like: "Hi Kate, just wanted to let you know . I got elected to be a prefect at my school yesterday."
WOW. I was completely floored. Had a huge smile on my face.
Didn't know what to say. Well actually, I did know what to say! I was hooting and cheering, and if I'd been hooked up to a heart monitor, alarms would've been going off.
He is profoundly deaf, and has been elected prefect at a normal mainstream school. His parents had mentioned that he had decided to go for the position of prefect at his school after coming to our workshops, but I don't think I realised he was really going to do it.
The grin got bigger, and I thought - this is what it's all about. This . giving the kids enough confidence to know . they literally can do ANYTHING. It was a small sign - well, a big sign - that what we are doing is making a difference, is helping these kids feel more confident about themselves, and pushing them to challenge themselves.
So, congratulations Adrian! You are my hero, and I am very proud of you. Just remember this is step one of the journey. Keep going till you hit CEO, just like we talked about! And remember it doesn't end there!
Kate Locke, Mentor
I recently completed 'Hear For You' in Sydney - my first one ever!
I really enjoyed all four sessions. We did many activities such as listening to hearing people talk about their lives with deaf people. We also talked about experiences of being deaf. We did a performance for the parents and boot camp. We also met other deaf teenagers who are all different ages and go to different schools.
Meeting our mentors and fellow teenagers was the best thing about Hear For You because they have done it all and they were all able to share their personal life with us. I had thought all deaf adults would just have the same life but no, they have different lives and are all heading in different directions.
Having Olivia and Nick as my mentors was great because we are similar in that we all play sports and like to have fun. From what I can see, both of my mentors have been successful in everything they have tried despite having to overcome major obstacles. This has shown me that I can do it too! They have also given me tips on how to get the best out of my hearing loss.
In our sessions I learnt quite a lot. One of the things I learnt was that we have the same problems as each other such as being nervous to ask to repeat what they said and our batteries run flat and we don't have any spares.
In our first session we talked about communication. I often miss things when discussing issues in class or out in the playground but I didn't have the courage to ask people to repeat themselves. But after realising that people wouldn't be too offended if I asked them nicely to repeat what they said.
The second workshop ('Leadership') was my favourite because we did boot camp and it was all about teamwork and I like doing things with other people. I remember as a group we all picked David up and carried him half way across the park without dropping him.
In session 3 it was all about the future and life after school. We talked about our options whether we wanted to go to university and study or travel the world, or get into a part time job etc. I also learnt how to write a resume which was really useful because I had to write one for work experience at school.
And at the final workshop we did 'The Hear For You Presidential Debate' where we showed our parents/ family what we had learnt and the people we met and all the fun we had!
After the program finished, Jessica - a fellow teenager who I met at the Hear For You workshops - and I recently went to the AWD Cross Country. It was great to catch up with her.
Now I'm glad to have been part of a cool program like Hear For You!
Christabel, Year 10
A Boot Camp Experience!
Hear For You participated in a three-day holiday program for deaf children in Years 5 & 6 who came from different mainstream schools. Participants attended a Bootcamp session on the second day at Bronte in Sydney's east.
The session was led by trainers "Chief" and "Gunny" from The Original Bootcamp. We spent the morning doing a whole range of physical activities that hearing people would probably take for granted. One exercise, for example, involved the kids carrying one member of the group for 50 metres, then they had to lower that person to the ground.
These young charges, like many young deaf people, had no concept of team work. It's a common problem because they're so used to working one-on-one in speech therapy, education support and so on. Teamwork is not something that comes naturally to them. The first few people to be carried were unceremoniously dropped onto the ground. The kids had no idea of working together to gently carry and lower the person.
But we kept reinforcing the message of doing it together. By the time they got to the fifth person the kids had worked it out. Then "Chief" told them, "Carry me - if you can work together you can do this." Although we were a little anxious, they did it - and it was fantastic to watch them do it beautifully.
In the afternoon on the same day there was a Question & Answer session led by Olivia Andersen and David Herridge. To the kids enrolled on the holiday program, we are the older generation. We grew up with relatively ineffective hearing aids. These young kids have grown up with cochlear implants.
These days babies as young as six months receive implants. That means they have a greater opportunity to learn language naturally. Despite the changes in technology, many of our personal experiences were the same as those that our young charges are going through now, and there was a lot we could share.
They asked us about everything. How did we survive as deaf teenagers? How did we manage university? How do we manage day-to-day life as deaf adults? They were worried about who they were going to marry and having deaf children. They wanted to hear all about David's little boy Josh, who is three and has perfect hearing.
On the last day of the holiday program, the children attended a workshop with cartoonist, David Carter, who has a cochlear implant and is currently working in USA with Mike Judge (the creator of Beavis and Butthead). The kids were inspired by David Carter's success and creativity.
Overall, the program was very successful - the participants were motivated and excited. One of the kids went back to school and approached his Sports Master about becoming a sports captain! It definitely confirmed our view that there is a real need for something like this for young deaf people.
The Great Debate
Below is an excerpt from Carl Robertson, WA Mentor.
It went from being the 'great debate' to the 'awesome debate.'
In the second Perth HFY workshop, our group participated in a debate with the theme 'deaf people should only be taught in deaf schools,' and took it to new levels.
The group was split into the 'for' and 'against' team and had ten minutes of preparation and discussion time. Each debate team was comprised of five teenagers that came up with ideas that would be used for their argument. Each student was allocated a point to argue and when all points had been argued, brought it upon themselves to keep the debate lively and flowing by opposing and defending the valid points that had been made.
So what had originally started with the speakers taking turns one at a time to argue their point, soon progressed to a stage where they felt confident enough to argue back and forth in a calm, confident and controlled manner. Every point that was argued was meaningful, mattered and was valid. There was no right or wrong answer, just beliefs that were important to them and were expressed enthusiastically and clearly.
Some of the great points made on either side were - that it would be more beneficial and effective for deaf students to be immersed in a mainstream environment and have interactions / friendships with hearing students and teachers. That deaf people would have the opportunity to be challenged and stimulated with the mainstream curriculum and that the mainstream network and support system would be just as effective as the one found in the specialist school.
The 'for' team made these valid points - deaf students would have a better relationship and understanding with other deaf students and teachers of the deaf. The school work would be more appropriate and suited to their level. The school environment would be more welcoming and comfortable and finally that the school would have a better network and mentoring/counselling/support system in place.
Along with Nicole and myself, Olivia and Nick from the NSW Hear For You team and Geoff and Kathryn from the Telethon Speech & Hearing Centre where the Hear For You workshops are held, all had the privilege of watching this great debate. All six of them were very impressed with the participants and the outcome.
The 'awesome debate' was deemed a success because everybody contributed to the debate with ideas and opinions that backed up their argument and each and everyone of the participants were passionate and forthcoming in their contributions and responses. It was also presented in an effective manner that enabled the debate to run smoothly.
Carl Robertson, WA Mentor
Below is an excerpt from Isabella Rosati who spoke at the Hear For You "Meet & Greet" / Information Session on 28 February, 2010.
My name is Bella Rosati and I participated in the Hear For You program last year in 2009. It is my absolute pleasure to be here today to talk to you about my experience at Hear For You.
At my first workshop, I remember feeling extremely nervous and reluctant but once I had met all the mentors and students, I felt very welcomed and part of something extraordinary. It was an immense opportunity to be involved in a program, which was focused entirely on deaf people. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people from similar backgrounds as I found that I had so much in common with them. Just knowing that everyone that surrounded me was deaf just like myself was indescribable and amazing. I strongly felt that everyone understood each other and shared stories we never thought anyone else but ourselves would understand. There is nothing better than having someone who has experienced the same things as you and completely understands where you're coming from. The fact that every single person involved in Hear For You, including the mentors are deaf made me feel very comfortable in my own skin.
At each workshop, you learn a different topic, which I found really thought provoking because for me it meant the topics never became boring or repetitive. The topics my group studied were leadership enrichment, further study and employment and relationships and wellbeing. Each workshop was very challenging as I participated in things I didn't normally enjoy like public speaking, mock interviews, debating and talking for one minute without saying "um" and "ah". However I gained a positive experience from participating in all these things as they helped improve my confidence, my communication, my career, my leadership skills and my outlook on life.
All the mentors involved in the Hear For You program are extremely successful, supportive and inspiring role models. Their incredible knowledge and optimistic attitude reminded me that life is too short to not accept yourself for who you are and not stand up for what you believe in. Since Hear For You, I've been willing to be more open with my deafness and not let it get in the way of achieving my dreams.
My Hear For You experience has made a huge difference to my life. The program enabled me to recognise that life is full of opportunities so therefore you should embrace your deafness and treat it as an opportunity not a disadvantage.
I hope my speech has inspired the new teenage participants and their parents to attend the upcoming workshops. I promise you that Hear For You is a once in a lifetime opportunity so make sure you get yourselves involved immediately!
Declan meets the Opposition Leader!
We are so proud of Declan Lee that we would like to share his story with you. Declan who is in Year 11 and joined our program this year, recently met with Australia's Opposition Leader Mr Tony Abbott and we thought it would be fitting to share his story with you - especially being in the midst of the 2010 Elections.
As self-advocacy was one of the topics in our "Leadership Enrichment" workshop, Declan says he felt inspired by the 2010 Hear For You program to advocate for himself and fellow deaf people at the meeting regarding captioning in cinemas. He shares the following story.
"I attended a community meet-the-member night at Mosman RSL club. Tony Abbott is the Federal Member for my area and was picking people who wanted to ask questions about the Liberal Government. As Tony Abbott picked me to ask a question, I was really nervous and wondered how I was going to be able to handle a situation like this. Was I to become a laughing stock or would people listen to me with interest? At that moment it didn't matter because I knew my mentors David Brady, Kate Obermayer and Olivia Andersen were counting on me to speak up on behalf of not only myself but the entire hearing impaired community.
I gave it my best shot! I spoke about the unfair discrimination of captioned movies in cinemas - as there are only 100 captioned movies a week in Australia. I also mentioned that Hoyts, Greater Union and Village cinemas are avoiding placing captions in their cinemas for the next 2 years. I also talked about the advantages of the new Captioned Telephone that I received from the Australian Communications Exchange. Mr Abbott was interested in what I had to say. After the meeting many people congratulated me on my courage to speak up to a nation's leader. I felt exhilarated and very proud.
I don't think I could have done it without being a mentee at Hear For You. I really benefited from the activities on self-advocacy and leadership especially with the intense amount of advice David and Kate gave me.
I also really enjoyed learning about other people in my group, what stories they had to tell, what difficulties they previously experienced and how they had overcome difficult situations. I really think that I got along well with some of the people in my group. Apart from the mentors I made some new friends as well which was really great. I am really pleased to have been a part of this exhilarating learning experience!"
Photo above: Declan Lee, Year 11 (seated, right in photo. From the Hear For You workshop)