Hearing the Need for College Prep Penn State CSD faculty jumped at the chance to prepare high school students with hearing loss for life in college. Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   March 01, 2018
Hearing the Need for College Prep
Author Notes
  • Shelley D. Hutchins is content producer/editor for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org
    Shelley D. Hutchins is content producer/editor for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org×
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Hearing & Speech Perception / Hearing Disorders / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   March 01, 2018
Hearing the Need for College Prep
The ASHA Leader, March 2018, Vol. 23, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.23032018.40
The ASHA Leader, March 2018, Vol. 23, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.23032018.40
It’s not often funding goes in search of a recipient, but that’s what happened for the communication sciences and disorders (CSD) faculty at Pennsylvania State University in State College.
In the spring of 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) came to the school’s College of Health and Human Development looking for a place to host a new college preparatory camp for high school juniors and seniors with hearing loss. The college, in turn, reached out to Diane Williams, CSD program director, who immediately saw an opportunity for her faculty and students.
“The CSD department was a natural fit—we offer a deaf studies minor—so we jumped at the chance to help organize and host the program,” Williams says.
Williams enlisted deaf studies instructor Sommar Chilton to take the lead on working with the OVR representative—Russ Goddard—on designing a curriculum, selecting CSD undergraduate and graduate students to serve as counselors, and recruiting participants. Penn State already hosts a similar summer camp for teens with visual impairments—also funded by the OVR—giving Chilton and the academy planning team a successful model to follow.

Session topics included assistive technology, self-advocacy, communication access options, vocational rehabilitation, team-building, financial management, independent living skills, dealing with pressure and forming healthy relationships. They even covered how to do your own laundry.

Putting it together
The inaugural program took place in the summer of 2017 and lasted two weeks, although the OVR plans to fund a longer summer camp in 2018. The organizing team, led by Goddard, felt this time frame made planning and executing a new program more manageable, but still offered students adequate time to experience campus life.
The curriculum for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Summer Academy includes courses, activities and social outings. The planning teams selected topics aimed at helping participants transition to secondary education, inviting other professionals from the OVR and related agencies to present when necessary. There were sessions on, for example, assistive technology, self-advocacy, communication access options, vocational rehabilitation, team-building, financial management, independent living skills, dealing with pressure and forming healthy relationships. They even covered how to do your own laundry.
“Our faculty, plus experts within these areas, came and presented to the students through hands-on activities with follow-up assignments,” Chilton says, “so we could glean what the participants understood.”
One key goal of camp organizers involves boosting participants’ confidence about attending college. As expressed in the program’s mission statement, the team planned to achieve that goal by teaching students “independent living, self-awareness and self-advocacy skills.” Of course, everyone involved also hopes to eventually increase the number of students with hearing loss who complete some type of secondary education.
According to feedback from the 22 high school juniors and seniors who participated, some highly valuable information came from Penn State audiologist Leslie Purcell’s session on taking care of their hearing aids and finding a local audiologist.
“I shared basic information on how to establish audiology care once students arrive on a campus,” says Purcell. “Things like how to locate a local audiologist, or if the campus has resources to help fix issues, and what type of information the student needs to know about their devices—such as type and model—as well as their hearing history.”

“This program allowed participants to see themselves doing things and living on their own, so they become excited about college rather than nervous.”

Planning for the next year
Reactions from participants—casually at the closing ceremony and formally through surveys—let the planning team know they reached their goals. In addition to positive feedback about sessions, attendees enjoyed meeting other teens with hearing loss. Many of them did so for the first time.
“This program allowed participants to see themselves doing things and living on their own,” Williams says, “so they become excited about college rather than nervous.”
Even with their successes, Chilton is already meeting with OVR staff to plan—and improve—this year’s program. One challenge they’ll address involves accommodating the wide range of hearing loss and hearing technology among participants. The team will also talk to presenters and the college counselors for feedback on how best to tweak the curriculum for a longer, three-week camp this year.
After watching the effort Chilton and Purcell put into the program, as well as seeing how hard the high school students worked, Williams supported the proposal from the college’s outreach office to give the future attendees three college credit hours in communication sciences and disorders from Penn State. In addition, the organizing committee enlisted Jim Herbert, a faculty member from the education department, to perform follow-up research on outcomes for participants. The OVR will also track similar attendee statistics, such as how many attendees apply and go to college, where they attend, if they graduate, and what career paths they follow.
Organizers also hope to see high school juniors return as seniors, and seniors return as counselors for future camps.
The college students who served as residential advisors for the 2017 program also came away excited about what they learned and connections they made. More than 120 applications were reviewed—many from CSD undergraduates—for the 25 openings. The academy planning team recruited from colleges throughout Pennsylvania, including Penn State, from which they accepted eight students. All of those hired knew some sign language and many study deaf education.
“We got to serve the high school kids,” Williams says, “and also the experience for the college students and our faculty was incredible.”
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March 2018
Volume 23, Issue 3