The Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) does a thorough job in training its students for life in the adult world and, through a local partnership, continues to assist them after they graduate.
ISD has been working with the Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living (JACIL) since the latter’s inception in 1996. JACIL not only has provided tutoring and mentoring services to the young people while still in school, it also provides advocacy, peer mentoring and support services to graduates who choose to remain in Jacksonville after they enter adult life.
Paul Pyers has been with JACIL for over 10 years and is virtually as well known on the ISD campus as any of its faculty members. He and several volunteers serve as tutors in a variety of subject matters and mentor students and adults in life skills such as looking for a job, registering to vote or managing a bank account. He also has been able to occasionally help students with unique challenges.
“We had one student who studied to become an American citizen,” Pyers said. “I researched what requirements she had to complete and helped her to study. Eventually, she passed the test and became a naturalized citizen.”
JACIL also conducts a support group called the Deaf Silent Club, which meets monthly. Its members receive continuing education, enjoy fellowship and learn about new technologies, such as videophone communication which has mostly replaced the Teletypewriter (TTY) devic,e which was in use for most of the 20th century.
The American Sign Language (ASL)/Deaf Culture group was an earlier incarnation of that outreach that helped produce one of this region’s most prolific and expert ASL interpreters, Kitty Aubry.
Working with ISD and the Jacksonville Community Center for the Deaf, JACIL has helped many local citizens to develop ASL skills. JACIL offers four levels of ASL instruction multiple times per year and has produced literature to assist business owners in serving the deaf community.
JACIL has benefitted from ISD on many occasions. Many volunteers, from both students and graduates, have assisted JACIL in its mission of helping advocate for personal independence. Stephany Dirksmeyer is an ISD graduate who volunteers in JACIL’s office on a weekly basis, and students at ISD recently assisted in preparing materials for one of JACIL’s outreach activities.
The great people at ISD have a long and distinguished tradition of helping people who are deaf or hard of hearing develop the skills and knowledge which will aid them in living independently in the Jacksonville community or wherever they choose to settle. Unlike just about any other educational institution, the dedication and support provided by ISD, along with JACIL, continues on after graduation.