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Lifetrack’s: Deaf Mentor Family Program and DHH Role Model Program Lifetrack’s Deaf & Hard of Hearing Outreach Services include our MNH&V, along with offering two other programs specific to families with a child who is dhh; Deaf Mentor Family Program (DMFP) and DHH Role Model Program (DHHRMP). These programs offer many benefits to families who have a child who is dhh and are recognized as playing a critical role in the Minnesota Early Hearing Detection and Intervention System. The DMFP is focused on facilitating early language through American Sign Language (ASL) instruction and sharing valuable insight about the social emotional development of children who are dhh. The program brings together the love of family, ASL, and the wealth of knowledge from a mentor who is dhh to provide a rich language environment for the child.

For more information about finding a Deaf Mentor for your family and the DMFP go to http://www.lifetrack-mn. org/deaf-mentor-family-program

The DHHRMP understands children who are dhh benefit from a positive relationship with a trusted adult who is also dhh. Role Models who have experienced the challenges of being dhh firsthand can help children who are dhh practice important self-advocacy skills and help develop their sense of identity. Families sense optimism and hope by seeing a connection between their child who is dhh to a successful Role Model. The Role Model will serve as a guide to the diversity of language and useful knowledge of technology options.

For more information about finding a Role Model for your family and the DHHRMP go to Meet Lifetrack’s DHH Role Model — Jessica Stern J


Meet Lifetrack’s DHH Role Model — Jessica Stern

Jessica Stern is a role model for Lifetrack DHH Role Model Program. Jessica grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota. Jessica became profoundly hard of hearing as a baby during a harrowing medical experience, which almost cost her her life. After several offices and emergency room visits local doctors and emergency room staff could not diagnose Jessica’s illness. But with her mother’s persistence and the help of one compassionate doctor, Dr. Parnell, they were finally sent directly to the hospital in Rochester. Jessica was one of the first infants to be diagnosed with Meningitis during the Meningitis outbreak in the 1980’s. It wasn’t until after her first birthday that her babysitter discovered Jessica could not hear due to that illness. Growing up Jessica’s parents, two sisters and various foster siblings worked tirelessly on language skills with her. Her mother would hold up an apple and say, “Jessi, say ‘apple’ (insert babble), good job!” This went on for hours upon hours; her baby sister learned to speak much earlier than normal because of all the practice. Working on language skills was not easy and it took much patience for her and her family, but she eventually started talking. Jessica had success with hearing aids growing up and her family took sign language classes to give her another tool to use then and in the future. In regard to being a role model, Jessica tells a story about an encounter she had with a woman. Apparently, the woman had met Jessica years earlier at an event in Mankato. “Her son was only 6 weeks old and she had found out that he was deaf. She shared some moving words about meeting Jessica which had impacted the way she raised him because she thought I had turned out pretty great,” said Jessica, adding, “My mom was actually there when this woman shared this information and she said, ‘That’s all I wanted to see when she was a baby, someone who turned out okay at the end of all this.’” This exchange with her mother and the woman was the driving factor for Jessica’s desire to be a role model. Jessica’s advice for parents would be to toss any expectations or bars that someone else has laid down for your child who is dhh. “No one has the right to limit what you and your family can become and no one can see the future,” she said. “Although it is hard to see the end result now, the future you is very wise, happy, and telling you to just take on each day with a smile.” Jessica was active in college life by joining a sorority and was a member of several executive boards for the campus. She used accommodations for classes as needed, mostly interpreters or note takers. She graduated from the mortuary program within the medical school at the University of Minnesota and is now a licensed funeral director. Jessica lives with her husband and they call the Twin Cities area their home.

Read Jessica’s entire biography and other role model biographies at Lifetrack http://


On June 8, the last day of school, students and staff at Gideon Pond Elementary in Burnsville, host to ISD 917 Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program for 35 years, celebrated with Vikings mascot, Victor, and Vikings cheerleaders. The celebration was to witness U.S. Bank executives present a check for $50,000 to Gideon Pond Principal, Chris Bellmont. This fulfilled their fundraising goal, started two years ago, to build a state-of-the-art, barrier-free playground at Gideon Pond. Lisa and Eddie Sardinha, parents of Victoria, a learner in the ISD 917 Deaf/ Hard of Hearing Program, have been on the Gideon Pond Playground Committee from the start.

They were part of the program, in which Lisa thanked all for helping to see through the creation of a playground which will be made accessible and barrier-free for her daughter. “Gideon Pond Elementary is on the leading edge of a movement to make playgrounds more inclusive and right for EVERY child,” said Kitri Kyllo, Assistant Director of ISD 917 Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program and a member of the Gideon Pond Playground Committee. “While the playground will benefit the whole community, there is no question it will allow ISD 917 learners with physical challenges a real playground experience where they get to participate side-by-side in play activities Thomas, ISD 917 learner, with Vikings’ mascot, Victor. with their peers. This is profound!” Lisa and Eddie Sardinha, parents of Victoria, a learner in the ISD 917 Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program.