Since 1885, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind has ensured that deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired and deafblind students in the Sunshine State receive an education on par with that of their peers.
“Our job,” said school President Tracie Snow, “is to prepare them for a lifetime of success.”
In part, that means academics. But it also means learning about leadership, self-determination, emotional well-being and all the things that help a child or youth become a successful adult.
Essentially, FSDB is a public school based in St. Augustine. Enrollment runs from pre-K (age 3) all the way up to graduation. The school is fully accredited and tuition-free. In fact, the state also funds student boarding, transportation and food services. In addition, the school has counselors, social workers and a health-care center to serve students.
But life is about more than just the essentials, and donations are always welcome to help make up the difference. They allow the school to offer things beyond that which is funded by the state, things that help enrich students’ lives.
And if donations follow public awareness, this should be a good year for the school. THE PLAYERS Championship has selected FSDB to be its Charity of the Day for Wednesday, March 9.
“We look forward to our partnership with THE PLAYERS,” said Snow. “I think that’s just a huge honor.”
A student perspective
Students come from all over the state, though occasionally a few from South Georgia will enroll. There is an application process, and once students are accepted, they may continue their education at FSDB for as long as they want. As with other public schools in Florida, they may remain until the age of 22. This could help a student earn an industry certification or an associate’s degree.
Enrollment currently stands at about 500. About 60-70 students graduate each year.
Teachers are dual certified: in their field of instruction and in the specifics of teaching students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired.
As with other public schools throughout Florida, there are numerous extracurriculars.
“FSDB provides so many amazing electives,” said senior Cassidy Dainty.
And she should know. Cassidy has been active in volleyball, basketball and flag football. She is a class officer, having been class president and vice president and, currently, sergeant of arms. She also has a job on campus in the technology department, is on the honor roll and is involved with the dance troupe, which she said is helping to build her confidence.
“I’m making so many precious memories and developing friendships with other people,” she said. “And they are just going to be lifetime friends for me.”
Participating in so many activities, Cassidy has realized one of the ways FSDB is preparing her for life: it is teaching her time management skills.
Cassidy hopes to attend Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, though she hasn’t focused just yet on what major she would like to pursue.
“I wouldn’t mind getting involved in leadership or management-type fields,” she said. “Some career that I can make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
In 2021, THE PLAYERS gave FSDB a charitable contribution that was used to purchase sports equipment for the athletic department.
Unfortunately, students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing often lack the opportunity to participate in structured athletics. But FSDB provides this opportunity and allows its students to compete, interact with peers and develop motor skills while building self-esteem.
Assistant Principal Donna Johnson, who oversees the phys ed and athletic departments, pointed out how donations have helped with the sports program.
The boys and girls goal ball teams, comprised of players from the Blind Department, did so well this year that they traveled to Austin, Texas, to compete in the Youth Nationals. Both teams came out winners.
Donations were also used for the school’s competition cheer team, which needed new uniforms and practice mats. The team made it all the way to the state competition this year.
Snow called FSDB “an incredible resource” in the state of Florida. Yes, it provides its students with a quality education and beneficial life experiences, but it also works with districts all over the state.
“As part of our mission, we provide outreach and services to the local school district,” said Snow. “And local means the entire state.”
She invited parents wondering whether FSDB would be right for their children to visit and take a tour.
“I would say that 99.99999% of the people who come here and see this school will submit an application,” she said.
To learn more about the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind or to donate, apply for a job or apply for admission, go to fsdbk12.org.