Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Jr. NAD hosts weekend for connection

Photo Courtesy of Darleen Hutchins

Posted on April 22, 2017 in Community
By USM Free Press

By: Darleen Hutchins and Marisa Zastrow, Contributors

Students from the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Marie Philip School and Rhode Island School for the Deaf attended the Jr. National Association of the Deaf region one conference hosted in Maine the weekend of April 7-9 at Mackworth Island. The theme of the conference this year was connections.

The idea was to help students understand that everything is connected. Connections are found everywhere: in concepts, relationships, events, issues and ideas. There were three main points in regards to these connections. The three points were self-advocacy, leadership and innovation.

In self-advocacy, the workshop focused on bullying. Leadership focused on understanding the different types of leadership. Innovation gave light to the De’VIA movement (Deaf art). Allie Rice, the Youth Ambassador Program coordinator from the National Association of the Deaf, was in attendance as a keynote speaker. Her presentation wrapped up the entire conference, where she talked about using these new skills to prevent and deal with cyberbullying.  

Emma, a junior from John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, commented on the weekend, saying that the conference helped her grow in several ways.

“In the Deaf community I’m not as self conscious and I feel that I can be a leader and be myself at the same time,” Emma said. “Several of the workshops at the conference helped me to do this even more.”

Students who attended the conference engaged in a teamwork activity using only mini marshmallows and toothpicks to build a bridge that had to support the weight of books. If their bridge failed, the team had to explain why they thought it had failed. The activity was meant to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills. Victoria Locicero, a sophomore from Topsham High School, said that the bridge activity was her favorite.

“It was a good team building activity,” Locicero said. “And I made new friends from other schools.”

The conference was also a collaboration with the University of Southern Maine (USM) American Sign Language Interpreting Program. The goal was to provide an opportunity for student interpreters to practice their skills in a safe place. Eight students participated in the weekend’s events. Opportunities included interpreting in the kitchen with Deaf staff and students who were working on their culinary skills, “mirror” interpreting for keynote presentations and workshops and a tour of the museum to learn the history of Mackworth Island and the Maine Deaf community.

The weekend provided a much-needed social event for Maine’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. In addition to the workshops, students were also able to take a walk around the island, the pet cemetery and the museum. Madison, a senior from Bangor High School, especially enjoyed the social aspect of the weekend.

“It was awesome!” Madison said. “I met new people and got to mingle with friends.”

The collaboration of Maine Association of the Deaf, Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, University of Southern Maine’s American Sign Language Interpreting program, Disability Rights of Maine and numerous visits from the Maine Deaf community and staff of the above mentioned made for a successful and wonderful weekend for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in Region 1’s Jr. NAD conference.

Special thanks to Terry Morrell, Allie Rice, Michelle Ames, Kristine Gile and Regan Thibodeau for the wonderful workshops and presentations and contributions to this event.

This piece was written by Darleen Hutchins and Marisa Zastrow. Hutchins is a USM Alumni of 2015, member of the Deaf community and a Jr. NAD advisor. Zastrow is an instructor at USM in the Linguistics ASL/English Interpretation Department.