Dear Alexander Graham Bell Community,
It is such a joy to know that since 1996, more than 440 young people who are deaf and hard of hearing from the U.S. and around the world have attended AG Bell's Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT) Program. Each student participates in activities that help them develop skills to become leaders and better public speakers and learn effective teamwork and self-advocacy - all while having fun in a supportive environment.
Arriving at LOFT, our teens find that they are not alone in their journey with listening and spoken language. They also learn to think outside the box and work together to overcome challenges. LOFT helps teens realize that hearing loss does not define them and is only part of their identity. Through this acceptance of self-identify, teens with a hearing loss learn to become more confident adults and prepare to become leaders for the future.
Our 21st edition of the program took place at the end of July in our nation's capital. With smiling faces, they came prepared to learn and contribute from Day 1. Upon arriving in Georgetown, each new LOFTee participated in an "icebreaker" session and gave a presentation to the group about themselves. Over the next few days, they joined in a series of different activities, including a tour of American history at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, a rope climbing course at Gallaudet University, and a plethora of team-building workshops.
The day before the LOFT graduation ceremony, LOFTees visited the AG Bell headquarters at the historic Volta Bureau, where they toured the organization, shared conversations and laughs among their new LOFT comrades, and... had a pizza party!
Left: Session One LOFTees and Counselor Jake Krevda pose for a group selfie at the Volta Bureau. Right: Session Two Counselors Nick Stone, James Barden, Michelle Tang, Catharine McNally, and Ken Levinson pose for a photo at the Jefferson Memorial.
I must give a very special thanks to Ken Levinson, LOFT co-creator and lead counselor, for making it all possible. For decades, Ken has been a part of AG Bell and served as a past president of the association. Ken has had a lasting impact on AG Bell as the creator of LOFT, co-founded with the late Donna Dickman, who, at the time, was the executive director of AG Bell. The program was launched in 1996 and designed to accompany the AG Bell Convention biennial schedule. In 2009, LOFT expanded to become an annual program and now includes two sessions.
I would also like to thank the many generous sponsors whose gifts made the program come to fruition. Their gifts provided each LOFTee with the opportunity to gain valuable skills for success.
As we send each LOFTee on their way to finish high school and enter college, we are a little sad but full of excitement and hope. We will miss their laughter and spontaneous energy but look forward to what the future has in store for them. I hope that each LOFTee will find what they learned in the program a useful tool that will support them to succeed on their life's journey. I look forward to seeing all their accomplishments in college and future careers. I hope that now, as alumni, they will continue to inspire others and spread the message that every child with a hearing loss can learn to listen and talk. 
Until next week,
Emilio EAM signature blue transparent 
Emilio Alonso-Mendoza
Chief Executive Officer
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

P.S. Help us send our students and future LOFTees on their way back to school - make a gift to AG Bell today!

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

John F. Kennedy