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Summer Course From College of Professional Studies

Advocacy and leadership were the focus of a recent summer course from the College of Professional Studies and Outreach’s (CPSO) Burstein Leadership Institute. “Deaf-Blind Young Adults in Action (DBYAA)” brought together 12 aspiring leaders from around the country, as well as uniting several important institutions. CPSO teamed up with the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) in New York City, Texas Tech University, the American Association of the Deaf-Blind, and the American Foundation for the Blind to offer the course.

During the five-day program, participants, ranging in age from 19 to 28, learned about current advocacy efforts. They also strategized to bring greater awareness and policy change to their own states and regions. Last summer, students in the course landed an audience with President Barack Obama. While this year’s group was not able to see the commander-in-chief, it did touch two policy hubs. The group ventured to Capitol Hill to meet with representatives of the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs and the Federal Communications Commission.

Both the on- and off-campus environments were ideal for these young leaders, said Suzanne Ressa of HKNC, who ran the program with Dr. Amy Parker of Texas Tech. “DBYAA is very grateful to Gallaudet University for providing us with such an accessible location for our program.” Ressa added that the University’s strategic location put them all in enviable proximity to lawmakers. In addition, participants could easily interact with people they met on campus and see others with the ambition of understanding the political system and having a lasting impact. “Smooth access, smooth communication,” Ressa said, summarizing the experience, “and they feel they are part of a larger community by being here.”

The group had a chance to meet prominent members of that community on June 18 when President T. Alan Hurwitz and CPSO Dean Joseph Innes visited a session. Dr. Hurwitz told the participants that their work had personal significance for him. Many of his friends, he explained, are members of the increasingly active deaf-blind community. He acknowledged that although individuals who are deaf-blind face challenges, they can also wield political influence.

The DBYAA is one of several leadership courses offered by CPSO this summer. For more on summer programs during this and upcoming sessions, visit the Summer Programs site.

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