July 24th 2011
“I was born deaf,” Michaela said rather matter-of-factly. “Sure, I always had hearing aids as a kid, but I had difficulty understanding speech, I only heard sounds. The cochlear implant helped me process speech and sign language played a big role with communication.”
Michaela discovered the challenges of living in two very different worlds--the world of the hearing and the world of the deaf. “The first big challenge of my life was finding my identity,” she continued. “Yes, I’m part of the deaf culture, but I also function within the hearing community. Sometimes those cultures are very conflicting. Sometimes it’s hard to know where I belong."
However, and heroically, this past June Michaela took on one more challenge. As a Communication Major at Azusa Pacific University, she decided to tithe the summer between her junior and senior year at UrbanPromise in Camden.
“At first I was a little afraid that I would not have the ability to communicate with the kids,” she confided. “But I’m learning that I don’t always have to communicate through words—hugs, smiles, and a helping hand bridge the gaps.”
But last Monday Michaela made history at UrbanPromise.
She started a Sign Language Class for 8 StreetLeaders—they’re our teen aged leaders who work as tutors, coaches, mentors and role models for the younger children in our many Summer Camps. This year over 65 teens are working at UrbanPromise! Instead of running the streets after work just to play or sleep, our teens can now enter a new world. They are learning a new language and experiencing the caring instructions of Michaela.
Megan was the first student. “I always thought sign language was strange, maybe weird, but interesting,” said our 16 year old, a third year StreetLeader. “One day it will be great to have a conversation with a deaf person. It’s a great new language and I want to learn it.”
And Megan is learning. First the alphabet--then the words and sentences.
“Yesterday we were on our swim trip with the children,” added Megan with a grin. “So Michaela started teaching me words like ‘swim,’ ‘sun,’ and ‘water.’ It was really incredible! I‘ve never been so excited.”
Teaching teens about new worlds, new languages, and new challenges is part of the UrbanPromise vision and experience. Hosting remarkable interns like Michaela allows UrbanPromise to offer the youth of Camden these incredible and unique opportunities.
You can help me keep the several hundred young people like Megan off the streets of Camden this summer, helping them be involved in life enriching programs like sign photography, dance, cooking, and Bible Study--and now even sign language.
For just $25 per day UrbanPromise can employ a teen like Megan and help her experience a remarkable role model like Michaela. Help employ a teen for $125 a week, $500 a month or $1,000 for the summer.
Thank you in advance for your support!
Dr. Bruce Main
Donate online: https://www.servicenetwork.com/olg/upusa-e/Donate.asp?Frequency=Monthly&Code=A811