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Location: Chicagoland, United States

I'm a deaf mom to three deaf and hard of hearing kids. The hubby is deaf too. Kaycie, our Westie, can hear a rabbit breathing a half mile away. I grew up hard of hearing and became deaf at the age of 19.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. Mohandas Gandhi

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008
June Prusak, Manager of a Youth Program

June Prusak has a fun job. She gets to go swimming, scuba diving, bowling, shopping, and rock climbing. She's been hit by dodgeballs, volleyballs and basketballs. And every year in July, she gets to scream along with the other deaf and hard of hearing kids on the roller coasters.

June is the Youth Program Coordinator at Chicago Hearing Society. She graduated from Gallaudet University with a B.S. degree in Leisure Studies, Therapeutic Recreation. For the last ten and half years, she's been planning fun activities for deaf and hard of hearing youth age seven to high school in the Chicago area.

"The best part of my job is being with deaf and hard of hearing kids!" said June. "I get to play with them, talk with them and use recreation opportunites to teach them about life, responsibilities, leadership and communication."

June runs the Adult Role Model in Education of the Deaf (ARMED) program and does approximately 65 presentations per year. The program sends a deaf or hard of hearing role model to different schools and the students get a chance to learn about professions and ask questions. For students with Ushers Syndrome, June arranges it so that each student can have one-on-one time with the role model to ask questions about being deaf blind.

There were many memorable role models throughout the years, but Chef Matt Krueger from Indianapolis stood out. "He did a cooking demonstration with the junior high kids," said June. "It was a hands-on kind of role model instead of the usual presentation."

June sets up a variety of activities throughout the year. A lot of her time is spent making arrangements for the event and making sure that releases are signed and transportation is arranged. "The worse part of the job is waiting for parents to pick up their kids," said June. She once waited at a police station for three hours when a parent finally showed up at midnight. June also runs a Leadership Workshop where the kids learn leadership skills and gain confidence. June helps them identify areas of strength and work on things they can improve.

The kids often look up to June as a role model but June recalls taking a SCUBA class for the first time with a group of deaf and hard of hearing teens that turned into a teachable moment. "The teens struggled with the SCUBA textbook, but it was easy for me. However, in the lake, the teens did every skills test and passed easily while I struggled in the water, due to my ears. It was nice for the teens to see me struggle."

"I hope and I feel like I'm giving back to the Deaf Community through the Youth Program," said June. "I enjoy giving the deaf and hard of hearing kids the positive aspects of life, recreation, communication, Deaf Culture and so on."

June takes great delight in seeing the positive outcomes of her program among the deaf and hard of hearing kids as they grow up. A high school student recently came up to her and recalled a lesson that she learned in sixth grade. Another student had a very resistent attitude about deaf role models as a younster, but grew up to seek out positive deaf role models after June introduced him to a deaf pilot. June has seen attitudes change and positive self esteem blossom as a result of kids meeting deaf and hard of hearing adults.

"You never know who you impact, how you impact, when you impact, etc... until that day comes!"


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