Guam’s Positive Parents Together Inc. (GPPT) the non-profit parent driven organization responsible for facilitating the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Parent Support Group for Guam’s families with children identified with a hearing loss has had an exciting and busy September!
GPPT hit the ground running in September with a Deaf Awareness Proclamation signing at the Governor’s Conference Room on Monday, September 9, 2019. Present at the signing was Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero, Senator Kelly Marsh (Taitano), Ann Marie Cruz, GPPT Board President, Mary-Therese, GPPT Board Vice President, Evelyn Claros, GPPT Board Treasurer, Trisha Suzuki, Parent Mentor, Margarita Gay, DPHSS Nursing Administrator, Kirsten Rosario, GCC ASL Instructor, Terrie Fejarang, retired Guam CEDDERS Associate Director, Marie Wusstig, Guam CEDDERS Training Associate along with numerous supporters present to witness the inaugural declaration of Deaf Awareness Month for the month of September.
As part of celebrating Deaf Awareness month , GPPT spearheaded activities to promote Deaf Awareness in the community with a WAVE at the Paseo Loop on Friday, September 13. Then on Sunday, September 15, members of the community were invited to show their support by participating in first Deaf Awareness Outreach held at the Agana Shopping Center. The group also organized a special Sunday Mass for members of the DHH Community and their families on September 22 at the Our Lady of Purification Church in Maina. Family members and friends attended to celebrate September, Deaf Awareness Month.
GPPT also organized its first Deaf Awareness fundraising dinner. The purpose for this event was to bring awareness to the community of the issues that DHH families and their children face. Funds raised were identified to support DHH families with hearing aids and other necessities families may require such as adequate health and or educational resources for their DHH child.
GPPT continued to meet with Guam EHDI and The CARE Project of North Carolina, via Zoom to finalize plans for the first Guam CARE Project Family Retreat. In November, the collaborative efforts between Guam EHDI – Fitme Project , GPPT and The CARE Project from North Carolina, held its first Guam CARE Project Family Retreat on November 8 – 10, 2019. Members from North Carolina’s CARE Project, under the direction of Johnnie Sexton, Executive Director of The CARE Project facilitated the three-day Family Retreat at the Lotte Hotel Guam. Day one was an informal meeting with the families to meet with the volunteers, The CARE Project Team and Guam EHDI staff and allow for questions families may have regarding the retreat. On day two, the team presenting included Pediatric Audiologist, John J. (JJ) Whicker, Director, Inspirational Speaker, Katie Whicker, Parent Mentors Bo and Jessica Peterson and their sons, Oscar and Magnus. The families experienced a motivational seminar facilitated by Katie Whicker, a woman with Treacher Collins Syndrome and has grown up with a hearing loss. Parents, engaged in a focus group facilitated by JJ Whicker, “The Emotional Journey” which allowed parents to share their stories related to their children’s birth and diagnosis of deafness and hearing loss. This focus group allowed for the parents to openly express their grief among a safe group of listeners who understood and had shared experiences. In the afternoon, two families volunteered to be recorded sharing their stories to provide The CARE Project footage to share as they conduct sensitivity training with hearing screeners and health care professionals. The rest of the afternoon was spent with the main focus group split in two smaller groups (mothers and fathers) to further openly discuss their experiences and challenges in a more private and intimate setting with parent mentors Bo and Jessica Peterson. Parents spent the final morning in two seminars led by JJ Whicker, “Understanding Your Child’s Hearing” and “Disability Law: Knowing Your Rights and Advocating for Your Child”. The group convened for one last photo before departing.
The light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly for 18 scholars in the Educating Pacific Island Clinicians in Speech Pathology (EPICS) Project as they get closer to earning their graduate degree in Speech Language Pathology from San José State University (SJSU).
Now in the fifth and last year of the project, scholars have a very challenging workload that will only intensify as the final semester approaches. Scholars continue to take online classes and complete their practicum hours to meet course requirements for a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. In addition, scholars will be preparing and taking their program’s comprehensive examination May 2, 2020. They will also be preparing and taking the PRAXIS for Speech-Language Pathologists shortly after.
In June 2020, the second cohort of scholars will be spending about eight weeks in an externship in San José, California. Graduation will take place on Guam in August.
The EPICS Project is supported by a personnel preparation grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, awarded to SJSU, in partnership with Guam CEDDERS.
On September 4, the Guam Early Learning Council convened its first meeting under the new administration with Co-Chairperson Elaine Eclavea at the helm. New council members were provided with orientation in the development of the council and the timeline of early childhood initiatives on Guam. Early Childhood Program Administrators provided an overview of their respective programs as well as updates on services provided to families over the last eight months. Workgroup facilitators also reported on the status of the goals and activities for their focus areas as related to the Guam Early Childhood State Plan, which was last published in 2015. The next quarterly meeting will take place in December. Workgroup members spent the afternoon participating in the Karinu/Guam LAUNCH Early Childhood Evaluation Forum.
Members reviewed the progress of activities over the past year as well as data from the Wilder Survey used for Guam LAUNCH Evaluation reports and learned about the latest research in the Early Childhood field. Commitments on next steps and meeting dates were made to ensure that activities will continue.