IM this article to a friend!

June 26, 2004

Program teaches leadership to deaf

From: Lansing State Journal - Lansing,MI,USA - Jun 26, 2004

Summer training attracts students from Lansing, U.P.

By Aja Carmichael
Lansing State Journal

EAST LANSING - Before Lesli Hicks attended the Michigan Association for Deaf Hearing and Speech Services' Leadership Training Program, she had never met another deaf person.

And Lesli, 16, initially opposed participating in the program, which is sponsored by the Michigan Association for Deaf Hearing and Speech Services.

"I didn't want to come because I was scared and did not know what to expect," said Lesli, who volunteered to speak about her experience at the program's graduation Friday.

"I was so shocked to see people signing when I arrived,'' the Negaunee teen said between tears.

More than 20 students from the Lansing area and the Upper Peninsula graduated from the weeklong program on Michigan State University's campus.

The program teaches how to develop leadership qualities in social environments. Students went on field trips and attended seminars led by presenters who have similar disabilities and are involved with the deaf community.

Improving communication skills, prevention of substance abuse and employment were some of the topics addressed.

Lesli's mother suggested she attend the program to expose her to the deaf community.

"At home, nobody can understand me," Lesli said. "I was surprised people could understand me here.''

Program manager Nan Asher said that's typical.

"They're living in a hearing world,'' she said. "It's like they're always on the outside. This program helps them handle feeling different by talking about it."

The students are in grades

10 through 12 and are deaf or hard of hearing. Some use English and others prefer American sign language.

Communication and self-esteem are big issues in the deaf community because some students are the only deaf students in their district, Asher said.

The program, which began 10 years ago, costs $1,000 per student and is offered only in the summer. Sponsors include the United Way, Carl's Foundation, SBC Ameritech and the Capital Region Foundation.

Students pay only a $150 application fee that can be waived, and sponsors pay the rest.

Katie Stobinski, 18, of Ida used the program to conquer her fears of speaking in front of large crowds.

"I am very happy I came to the program," said Katie, who presented her speech to more than 50 people. "I have learned to have more confidence, thanks to this program."

Lisa Smith, Katie's mother, said she was proud to see her daughter graduate and speak at the ceremony.

"The whole time she was talking, I was thinking, 'Go Katie, go Katie,' " Smith said.

Students received certificates of program completion, group photos and tote bags.

"I love this program. It has helped me so much," Katie said. "I want to come back next year as a counselor."

Contact Aja Carmichael at 377-1052 or

Leadership and training program

The weeklong program teaches students how to become leaders, and improve their self-esteem and communication skills.

• The program costs $1,000 per student.

• Students pay only a $150 application fee and sponsors pay the rest. A scholarship is available for some.

• 3.0 grade point average is a required for entry.

• Students take field trips to Michigan's district courts, restaurants, and take a ride on the Michigan Princess riverboat.

• For more information, call (800) YOUR-EAR or visit

© 2004 Lansing State Journal