Hands fluttered excitedly in American Sign Language applause on two different coasts last month as the Deaf Education And Families (DEAF) Project at California State University, Northridge was honored by two different organizations for serving the Deaf community.
In San Diego, CSUN special education professor Rachel Friedman Narr, coordinator of DEAF Project, and project parent mentors Cora Shahid and Kristal Molina were recognized by the Registry for Interpreters of the Deaf (RID) Region V, which represent the West Coast of the United States, at its annual conference on June 28. The organization honored the women for their work building stronger ties between deaf children and their families.
“The RID Cares initiative, established in 2011, is a regional and national philanthropic effort to benefit the Deaf community,” said Sendy Medina, co-chair of RID Region V conference. “We selected DEAF Project for its notable work in helping to bridge the communication gap between deaf children and hearing parents.”
Part of the honor included a $1,400 donation to CSUN’s DEAF Project that was personally raised by RID Region V members, who held fundraisers throughout San Diego. Local artist Jon Savage, who is deaf, donated a percentage of his proceeds from a silent auction to support the CSUN effort.
“It’s an honor to have our work recognized and supported by RID Region V,” Friedman Narr said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to use this generous donation in continued support of families. Donations like this are what allow DEAF Project to further its mission of supporting and empowering parents raising deaf and hard-of-hearing children.”
In Massachusetts, also on the weekend of June 28, the American Society for Deaf Children recognized Shahid with its Lee Katz Award in honor of her “unending” support of families raising deaf and hard-of-hearing children. The award was presented at the organization’s annual conference.
Shahid, who is hearing, is raising three children — one who is hearing and two who are deaf. In her work as a parent mentor with the DEAF Project, she interacts with hearing families raising deaf and hard-of-hearing children, including parents of newly identified deaf children. She also volunteers with various other related organizations in an effort to enrich the lives of children who are deaf and their families.
She has said that her personal experience allows her to openly offer guidance and support from the invaluable perspective of “a fellow parent immersed in the journey.”
“We sincerely thank the American Society for Deaf Children for its recognition of Cora Shahid,” Friedman Narr said. “Our parent mentors are dedicated advocates not just for their own deaf children, but all deaf children. Cora is a wonderful role model for fellow parents. I’m proud to have her, and all of our parent mentors, on the DEAF Project team.”
The Deaf Education And Families Project supports and empowers families with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. To date, the organization has positively impacted more than 1,000 families throughout Southern California. The project aims to help parents realize the positive lifetime journey of bonding with and raising a deaf or hard-of-hearing child, rather than struggling with how to “fix” a “disabled” child.
The DEAF Project uses parent mentors, who themselves are raising deaf or hard-of-hearing children, to offer invaluable first-hand experience and emotional support to fellow parents and families. DEAF Project offers free, family-focused American Sign Language classes in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and San Diego. It also offers monthly Family Fun Days aimed at connecting families with others like themselves.