Scott Hetzinger, the executive director of the Lend an Ear Outreach nonprofit, presented a donation of hearing aids to the St. Johns County School District on Friday, Sept. 28 at Vicar’s Landing to help deaf and hard of hearing students hear in the classroom.
Hetzinger said the nonprofit got involved with the district after contacting Kyle Dresback, the associate superintendent for student support services. Dresback then forwarded information about the organization to Sonia Howley, a program specialist with St. Johns County schools in the area of deaf, hard of hearing, interpreting services and speech and language pathology.
"Most of our kids are coming with personal hearing aids," Howley said. "We do occasionally get students — as we have just this week — with nothing, not even the beginning which is a doctor's clearance for hearing aids."
Howley noted that students who can't hear in the classroom often have a hard time acquiring information and succeeding in school.
"If you can imagine you're in a classroom," she said, "this is new material for you, you're learning every day and you're building on what you learned the days prior. If you lose a month not being able to hear what's happening in the classroom, it's a pretty big deal."
Students without a hearing aid will notice an impact on their speech, Howley added, and those with severe hearing loss will start to pull away from peers. She also noted that students who are deaf and hard of hearing could get frustrated and struggle to maintain good grades.
"We don't want a child to think that they can't get it when it's really just that they can't hear it," Howley said.
The program specialist said the hearing aids provided through Lend an Ear will transform the academic careers and lives of St. Johns County’s hard of hearing students.
"Deafness removes you from people because our communication is what drives our social aspect, our education, our learning, everything," she said. "Not being able to communicate is a big, big deal."
Lend an Ear, a 501c3 nonprofit operating out of Vicar's Landing, collects hearing aids through donations. The organization's mission statement is to provide the gift of hearing by furnishing quality hearing aids to those with limited or no means, in an atmosphere of dignity and compassion.