The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY, on average, enrolls over 30 international Deaf students each year. Currently there are Deaf students attending NTID from Tanzania, Jordan, India, the Philippines, Myanmar, Jamaica, Nigeria, Nepal, Malaysia, Trinidad, and Tobago, Ghana, and so forth. Upon graduation, many of these students will return home as one of only a few Deaf people in their country who have had the opportunity to earn a college degree. Often, they will be recruited into leadership positions with expectations and responsibilities far beyond those of the typical college graduate.
They may be asked to serve as officers for their national association of the deaf; to meet with and advise members of Congress on accessibility issues in the education system and bills related to sign language use and its recognition in their country; to teach other Deaf people in their cities and provinces who never otherwise would receive an education; to serve as role models and cultural facilitators between the Deaf and hearing worlds; to advocate for Deaf people’s human, cultural, and linguistic rights; et cetera.
All too often, Deaf people are pushed aside, left in isolation, and restricted from participating in the decisions that impact their lives. These international students have come to NTID because they believe they can make a difference and prove what Deaf people truly are capable of. Education is a powerful tool for breaking down barriers of ignorance and showing the true potential that every person in our society can contribute to and benefit our collective society.
In 2016-2017 with support from the Nippon Foundation under the NTID Sasakawa-DeCaro Scholarship, NTID’s International Educational Outreach, along with DDW’s Executive Director, Davin Searls, and DDW’s International Programs Director, David Justice, have launched the Global Readiness Leadership Program (GRLP). The objective of this pilot program is to prepare international Deaf students at NTID to serve as leaders; leaders who are committed to the betterment of their home communities and Deaf people around the world in collaboration with local and international Deaf advocacy organizations.
Through the GRLP, these students will participate in several two-day intensive sessions focused on needs assessment, goal prioritization, change readiness, strategic planning, and action planning. In addition, they will receive direct training on disability law and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, leadership and advocacy, government lobbying, and organizational development. All direct training topics are selected based on the results of the initial goal prioritization activity with students facilitated by Searls and Justice of DDW.
We look forward to working with these ambitious students, whose actions have already inspired us to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more!