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June 19, 2003

Deaf students hit next by cutbacks

From: Vancouver Sun, Canada - Jun 19, 2003

A group of people who are already dealing with extra challenges in life is the next to be hit by government cutbacks.

This week is the last week of a program known as READ 2000, Resources in Education for the Adult Deaf .

The program helps students finish grade 12 and supports them while in college.

The average student's age is 30.

Students in the READ program say without the program's guidance and support, they'll easily slip through the cracks in an education system that is simply not set up for them.

READ student Dyan May says people who are deaf also have a terrible time finding work.

May dropped out of school in grade 10 because of the difficult time she had as a deaf teen in the school system. Now the single mom is getting her Dogwood diploma and heading for college.

"I'm really concerned about other deaf people," May says. "We want a better life, but the future is so bleak. There's nothing to look forward to."

Celeste Taylor, also a student in the program, quit school even earlier, when she was in grade seven. Taylor says she's told the government deaf students don't get the same resources hearing kids do.

"In one year I've gone to four different MLAs in person," Taylor says. "I've got letters from Gordon Campbell, letters from the minister. I've sent letters to them asking for help."

Karen Taylor, an instructor in the READ program, says the program is necessary to help these students graduate and develop marketable skills so they can be prepared to compete in the workplace.

But not all members of government support cancelling the program.

CH News talked to MLAs Brian Kerr and Arnie Hamilton, and both say they're shocked that funding is being cut.

They say the program is excellent, and they'll look into saving it.

But Donna Miller, principal of school district 62's community education program, says, so far, all she's gotten is the runaround.

"We have bright, capable young people who really want to gain the confidence and skill set to be employed," Miller says.

Staff says at a cost of just $130,000 a year, the READ program helps keep deaf people off income assistance.

And it also helps its students like Taylor to aim high.

"My goal is to go to university and create a provincial advocacy office for the deaf," Taylor says. "I want lots of things. I want it all!"

© Copyright 2003 CH TV