Dear Alexander Graham Bell Community,
It has been quite a while since my last message - I have had a long and very busy summer! The summer in D.C. is not always forgiving; this season saw a record 45 days at over ninety degrees! Despite the heat, the summer has been very effective for AG Bell and for me. There is some very exciting news coming down the pipeline, and I look forward to sharing with you the future of AG Bell beyond our borders. In the meantime, we have a few things to catch up on.
Last week, I read a story that warmed my heart. Alex Hernandez, a deaf high school senior from Nebraska, received an outpouring of support from his school and local community after his backpack was drowned in a school toilet during his lunch period, ruining his school supplies, debit card, and cochlear implant battery. A few of his teachers replaced his textbooks, and his classmates worked together to raise funds via gofundme.com to replace the rest of his supplies, including his cochlear implant battery. They successfully raised over $800 to cover his losses. Alex's story is unfortunately just one of many for students with disabilities in the U.S. - bullies not only affect their ability to successfully navigate the social environment of school, but also their academic performance. I hope Alex finds the rest of his senior year in high school to be much smoother now that he has support from across the country. AG Bell is behind you as well, Alex!
This story is one that has resonated across the nation for a
reason - many share in the struggles of growing up through adversity. Lance Allred, the first deaf player in the National Basketball Association, was born in a polygamous commune that had very limited access to modern medicine. He nearly died after birth due to Rh incompatibility - a condition in which a baby has an Rh blood protein type that conflicts with the Rh of his mother. This can cause life-threatening health issues as well as other medical conditions like hearing loss, as it was with Lance. Lance would have to fight an uphill battle the rest of his life to achieve the goals he wanted to achieve. Yet, he never let his hearing loss impact his ability to play basketball.
||Elena Laquatra, Miss Pennsylvania 2016
Elena LaQuatra has her own story. Born deaf, she didn't have an idea as a child of what she wanted out of life and found herself without a role model until she met Heather Whitestone at an event. Whitestone became the first deaf person to win Miss America in 1995. Seeing how Heather overcame her challenges ignited Elena's passion for pageant competition. She won Miss Teen Pennsylvania in 2008 and was second runner-up in the Miss Teen USA competition that followed. She then won Miss Pennsylvania 2016 and competed in the Miss America competition this year. Elena still remembers the words that Miss America 1995 had for her - "Don't let your disability hold you back."
Both Elena and Lance will be joining us at the
2016 Legacy of Innovation Gala
. Lance will have the honor of serving as our distinguished master of ceremonies. We will also welcome Neil Maes, spelling whiz kid, and Brick Reilly, entrepreneur and American Ninja Warrior contestant to the event. Seats are disappearing fast, so
while you still can!
As we begin preparing for 2017 at AG Bell, so many new and exciting opportunities are building for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Stay tuned to learn more about the future of AG Bell and what broad new horizons await us.
Until next week,
We don't develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.
Barbara de Angelis