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American Annals of the Deaf

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Black Deaf Students: A Model for Educational Success

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                            Figure 1. Model for Fostering Resilience in African American Deaf and Hard of Hearing
                            Young Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults

Purpose of the Resilience Program

The goal of the resilience program is to strengthen the likelihood of success for a larger group of African American deaf and hard of hearing students by unifying the family, school, postsecondary programs, and community stakeholders into a cohesive group with the same academic goals. The members of this group would work together in an organized fashion to provide the necessary protective factors that Foster resilience, enabling students to prevail over obstacles and succeed in school. The resilience program should be housed in the school so that the key groups in the lives of children have a central place to meet and plan how to help students transition from elementary to secondary school and through postsecondary programs (see Figure 1).

This resilience program focuses on African American deaf and hard of hearing children, adolescents, and young adults because the percentage of these students who enter and graduate from four-year colleges and universities is very small. The program is designed to enhance and facilitate the educational attainments of African American deaf and hard of hearing students and to enable each child so reach his or her fullest potential. However, it could benefit other students with other disabilities as well as students without disabilities. The key components of the program are the protective factors that promote understanding and respect of African American culture, Deaf culture, and other cultures; academic achievement; healthy social and emotional developmental; and culturally relevant curriculum, programs and activities. It involves a diverse staff that includes African American administrators, teachers, and staff; African American parents and age-appropriate students; community organizations; and other stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes (see Table 6).

The theory underlying the program is that the more resilience students possess, the better able they are to achieve in school. The resilience program will eliminate gaps in services, create appropriate interventions for students to succeed in school, and promote a cohesive and caring environment for African American deaf and hard of hearing students and for students from other ethnic groups to grow and develop to their fullest potential. It provides an avenue for the family, school, and community to reinforce each other. Working together, they can provide the guidance, intellectual stimulation, support, nurturance, opportunities, and resources students need to achieve success by changing systems, structures, and beliefs within schools and communities. This includes providing and modeling the protective factors children need to persevere in spite of obstacles to their academic, social, and emotional progress. Students are key elements in the resilience process, and they need to understand what contributes to resilience and the transition process, what resources are available, and how to access the resources. With the help of their families, schools, and community organizations, they must take active roles in their own development through age-appropriate activities.

Resilience, like transition, is a lifelong process. The following are three characteristics of the process that should be taken into consideration when planning policies, programs, and practices:

  1. The process is developmental and ongoing.
  2. The strengths of the students rather than their weaknesses should be recognized.
  3. The process promotes protective factors that help students achieve through changes in the systems, structures, and beliefs within their environment (Winfield, 1994, p. 4).

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