WENATCHEE — There wasn’t much noise in the dim Wenatchee classroom Tuesday evening, considering how many people were talking.
The 20 or so people were gathered as part of a monthly group for deaf and hard of hearing young people at the Castle Rock Early Learning Center in Wenatchee.
Organizer Justin Cavitto says it’s an opportunity for deaf and hard of hearing kids — and their parents — from across Central Washington to network and learn.
Carvitto first noticed the local deaf population was underserved in 2003 when he came through the area as a teacher. He started the group three years ago after he was hired by the Wenatchee School District full-time.
“You really see a difference in the children,” Carvitto said. “They come back to school and teachers notice this sense of stronger confidence because these kids get to see another signing kid, or they see other kids wearing hearing technology.”
One benefit of the session is introducing deaf kids to other deaf kids and deaf role models.
“I want those parents to meet those people who are now just starting that journey,” Carvitto said.
“A lot of the time, if you’re deaf growing up, when do you get to meet successful deaf adults?” Carvitto said. “Never.”
Jer Loudenback, an American Sign Language professor at Central Washington University, attends the sessions and gives language lessons to parents.
Wyatt Hurd, who is deaf, comes to the group to help the younger generation.
Carvitto acted as an sign language interpreter for a World reporter. Hurd has a lot to say. Carvitto struggled to keep up with the highly expressive 23-year-old.
“Kids don’t get an opportunity to meet other successful deaf adults that grow up and have careers and so it’s an opportunity for them to meet and see other people who have successful careers in their life,” Hurd said. “They see the possibilities are limitless. ‘I can fly an airplane. I can do this. I can become a mechanic. I can work at a university. It’s a can-do attitude and their self-esteem grows.”
Hurd was born in Thailand and then adopted by a local family when he was about 5. Acclimating to life in a new country is hard on its own, but even more so when you can’t hear what people are saying. He tries to help younger kids so they don’t feel the way he did.
“A lot of deaf kids when they grow up in families they don’t have a first language and it’s really hard for them and so what I do is I really go in and involve (myself) and interact with these deaf kids and really build up their self-esteem,” Hurd said. “I’m a role model and they look up to me. And they get a sense of can-do attitude.”
Hurd is studying to become a chef and hopes to specialize in Thai cuisine. Makenna Marcuson, 19, is studying culinary arts at the Wenatchee Valley Technical Center.
“I like how we got involved and we got to learn different things and help each other,” Marcuson said.
Last year she read a book to other deaf kids at a meeting.
“It’s really fun for them to hear about it and to learn about it from a book and signing and reading it to them,” Marcuson said.