Young deaf people in Virginia, like many other states, are falling through the cracks between high school graduation and higher education, training, or career.

Research shows that deaf people are employed at a lower rate than their hearing peers and that deaf students are enrolling in higher education at a lower rate than their hearing peers. These gaps appear regardless of demographics, but are more pronounced for marginalized groups. This follows them throughout their lives. Therefore, transition is critical to ensuring #DeafSuccess.

The Virginia Engage for Change | state team leaders Mary Nunnally, Wanda Council, and Traci Branch plan to tackle those statistics with a fun and engaging summer program, Map Your Future 2020, targeted toward deaf high school students.

“It is important that we offer options to explore multiple avenues after high school, including job training, college, and a variety of job experiences,” Nunnally said.

The planned two and a half day event will include active learning experiences, a chance to learn from deaf mentors, and examples of deaf youth working in a variety of fields. As students enter the registration area, they will see a rotating display of NDC’s #DeafAtWork, featuring deaf professionals discussing their careers and the ways they overcame barriers.

The Virginia team built this program with the help of other state leaders and resources from the National Deaf Center. They relied especially on “Developing Accessible Summer Programs,” an online class that provides evidence-based best practices, expert lectures, and lessons learned from other successful programs.

“The online course was incredibly helpful to us,” Branch said. “The research was eye-opening, but the real-life examples showed how that data really worked in practice.”

During the class, Nunnally and Branch even shared their own creative ideas for using Pre-Employment Transition Services funds — federal grant money dedicated to specific programs to help people with disabilities move from high school to higher education or career.

Thanks to the annual EFC | state convening, the Virginia team was able to connect with other state leaders and build upon the knowledge they gained from the course — a rare and invaluable opportunity that otherwise would not have been available.

“This work is about people,” Nunnally said. “Not only the deaf people we work with, but other professionals in the field. Any chance to share ideas, frustrations, and success is worth the time and effort.”