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Hampshire Regional program new home for deaf students

  • Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer, right, assists four Clarke alumni, from left, Mareo Fabozzi, Yolyanna Hernandez, Mikaila Fini and Weyehn Reeves, during an American history class at Hampshire Regional High School where they are freshmen. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer, right, assists four Clarke alumni, from left, Mareo Fabozzi, Yolyanna Hernandez, Mikaila Fini and Weyehn Reeves, during an American history class at Hampshire Regional High School where they are freshmen.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clarke School alumni, from left, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi are now in their first year attending Hampshire Regional High School.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Clarke School alumni, from left, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi are now in their first year attending Hampshire Regional High School.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clarke School consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer, center, and Hampshire Regional American history teacher Kelly Carpenter, right, both wear transmitting devices that carry their voices to four former Clarke students in their first year at Hampshire Regional.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Clarke School consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer, center, and Hampshire Regional American history teacher Kelly Carpenter, right, both wear transmitting devices that carry their voices to four former Clarke students in their first year at Hampshire Regional.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clarke School for Hearing and Speech alumnus and Hampshire Regional freshman Mareo Fabozzi raises his hand while attending an American history class at HRHS taught by Kelly Carpenter.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Clarke School for Hearing and Speech alumnus and Hampshire Regional freshman Mareo Fabozzi raises his hand while attending an American history class at HRHS taught by Kelly Carpenter.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hampshire Regional American history teacher Kelly Carpenter wears a transmitting device that carries her voice to four former Clarke School for Hearing and Speech students in their first year at Hampshire Regional.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hampshire Regional American history teacher Kelly Carpenter wears a transmitting device that carries her voice to four former Clarke School for Hearing and Speech students in their first year at Hampshire Regional.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Yolyanna Hernandez is one of four Clarke School for Hearing and Speech alumni attending Hampshire Regional High School this year as freshmen.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Yolyanna Hernandez is one of four Clarke School for Hearing and Speech alumni attending Hampshire Regional High School this year as freshmen.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clarke School for Hearing and Speech consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer meets with Clarke alumni, from left, Yolyanna Hernandez, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi for one period every day at Hampshire Regional High School where they are freshmen.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Clarke School for Hearing and Speech consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer meets with Clarke alumni, from left, Yolyanna Hernandez, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi for one period every day at Hampshire Regional High School where they are freshmen.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clarke School alumni, from left, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi are now in their first year attending Hampshire Regional High School.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Clarke School alumni, from left, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi are now in their first year attending Hampshire Regional High School.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer, right, assists four Clarke alumni, from left, Mareo Fabozzi, Yolyanna Hernandez, Mikaila Fini and Weyehn Reeves, during an American history class at Hampshire Regional High School where they are freshmen. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Clarke School alumni, from left, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi are now in their first year attending Hampshire Regional High School.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Clarke School consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer, center, and Hampshire Regional American history teacher Kelly Carpenter, right, both wear transmitting devices that carry their voices to four former Clarke students in their first year at Hampshire Regional.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Clarke School for Hearing and Speech alumnus and Hampshire Regional freshman Mareo Fabozzi raises his hand while attending an American history class at HRHS taught by Kelly Carpenter.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hampshire Regional American history teacher Kelly Carpenter wears a transmitting device that carries her voice to four former Clarke School for Hearing and Speech students in their first year at Hampshire Regional.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Yolyanna Hernandez is one of four Clarke School for Hearing and Speech alumni attending Hampshire Regional High School this year as freshmen.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Clarke School for Hearing and Speech consultant Ashley Kachelmeyer meets with Clarke alumni, from left, Yolyanna Hernandez, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi for one period every day at Hampshire Regional High School where they are freshmen.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Clarke School alumni, from left, Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves and Mareo Fabozzi are now in their first year attending Hampshire Regional High School.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

— In a recent American history class at Hampshire Regional High School, four deaf teens were among the students going over the answers to a quiz on the Mexican-American War.

But it wouldn’t be easy to pick them out, as they listen and talk to teacher Kelly Carpenter and each other just like the other students. The only clues are the hearing aid-like devices visible behind the ears of the two boys. The two girls also have the cochlear implants that help them hear, hidden under their long hair.

While they are reviewing quizzes, the deaf students are also doing something that, in the world of hearing-impaired education, is called mainstreaming. It’s the process of leaving a school for deaf or hearing-impaired students to attend a regular school. And as these former Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech students will tell you, it’s not easy.

“It was sad leaving Clarke School, it was like a family,” Mikaila Fini, 14, said at the high school April 1. “And high school was going to be a whole new experience; meeting new people, new teachers, new classes. I was very nervous.”

Sixteen-year-old Yolyanna Hernandez of Holyoke, put it simply: “It’s hard. They don’t know what it’s like to be deaf.”

The Clarke School in Northampton has been offering mainstream services for over 35 years to help those who graduate from the school after Grade 8 to integrate into regular schools. Until September, most Clarke School graduates mainstreamed to their local schools, where they were likely to be the only hearing-impaired students. A Clarke School teacher would visit the former student at the new school several times a week to provide academic and emotional support.

But last fall, a partnership between the Clarke School and Hampshire Regional made it possible for four of the 10 Clarke graduates in 2012 to come to the high school, with a full-time teacher and each other for support. The high school provided them with a room of their own, so they could have a “home base” with their deaf peers. Faculty and staff attended trainings to learn about how to teach deaf students.

The result has been remarkable, said Ashley Kachelmeyer, the Clarke School teacher of the deaf who works with the new HRHS students: Hernandez, Fini, Weyehn Reeves, 14, of Easthampton and Mareo Fabozzi, 14, of Amherst.

“They’re all at different levels academically and socially, but having the comfort of being around each other helps them integrate, and that’s the goal,” Kachelmeyer said. “They also challenge each other, because a couple are not as shy and they’ll make the other two be more outgoing.”

Claire Troiano, director of mainstream services at Clarke School, said the school has always wanted to have a high school support program like this. And it has impressed Clarke students and their families. Last summer, Reeves’ family moved from Detroit, Mich., to Easthampton so he could attend Hampshire Regional.

Clarke School President William J. Corwin said the school considers it a “model program.”

“The kids seem to really enjoy it. I think it could be replicated nationally,” he said.

New model for mainstreaming

The program started to take shape in 2012, when Troiano began talking with HRHS administrators, including Principal Laurie Hodgdon, about the likelihood that Fini, who lives in Southampton, would attend the school in the fall. The talks led to the school administration’s decision to start a comprehensive support program there with help from Clarke.

Hodgdon said she jumped at the chance to give the deaf students a good high school experience while creating an eye-opening opportunity for other Hampshire Regional students and faculty.

“We don’t have a lot of diversity here,” she said. “I said, ‘If we can make this work, we could really help students who aren’t hearing impaired learn about what it’s like.’ It’s a great opportunity.”

Now, Fini, Hernandez, Reeves and Fabozzi go to classes and lunch with their fellow ninth-graders and spend one period a day in their home base room. “We call it the living room,” Fabozzi said.

There they can goof around together, recharge the batteries for their hearing devices and get support from Kachelmeyer, whether it’s homework help, suggestions for conversation starters, or a shoulder to cry on.

Kachelmeyer also provides support to faculty as needed and helps the students in some of their classes, making sure they are getting all the information and answering their questions, often silently.

“I’ll sit across from them and we can lip read back and forth. It’s fun,” she said. “And that’s high school: It’s hard but it should also be fun.”

Sitting around their “living room” April 1, the group talked about aspects of school life they’re finding difficult, like hearing an unfamiliar word and dealing with the background noise in the halls and cafeteria. Talking to classmates and making new friends is a challenge.

“It’s hard to make conversation,” Fini said. “But it gets easier.”

“I had a friend who wouldn’t really open her mouth a lot when she talked, or she wouldn’t look at me,” Fabozzi said, which made it hard to understand what her friend was saying. “But now she’s better and we talk a lot.”

“For any freshman to come into a small-town high school where groups are already established, it’s hard,” Kachelmeyer said. HRHS is a middle and high school, so most of the students have known each other since seventh grade.

There were some moments along the way that gave them the confidence to keep trying, the former Clarke students said. For Hernandez, it was the day a friendly boy walked up to the group in the hallway and asked how their day was going. For Reeves, it was a fundraiser where the four were among the teams of students competing in a dodgeball tournament. And Fabozzi has a video production class where he feels right at home.

For all of them, the student body’s reaction to a video they made about themselves and their deafness pleasantly surprised them and has helped bridge the gap.

‘Participants, not observers’

Much like when a student opts to go to a vocational school, the deaf students’ school districts provide transportation and pay for them to attend Hampshire Regional, Troiano said.

While attending their home district is still an option many families choose, President Corwin said it’s nice to have another opportunity. This spring, Clarke School is only graduating one student. She has decided to go to her hometown high school, but the plan is for the HRHS program to be there to mainstream Clarke alumni in future years.

“This is a model that’s new for us, but when there’s a critical mass of kids, I think it’s a model that can really benefit them. And the school district’s experience has been great, too,” he said.

And the mainstreaming process is not over for the four freshmen, who will continue to work on everything from homework to establishing friendships, whether through joining after-school clubs or just starting conversations with a classmate.

“Our vision is that the kids have a sense of belonging and are participants, not observers. And these kids are a great example of that,” Troiano said. “They’re Hampshire Regional students now, not Clarke students.”

Hernandez considered her progress before heading out to her American history class. “It’s good so far. I feel proud. I’m proud of my grades, and my friends, too,” she said. “It was hard to make friends, but we did.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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Video helps deaf students tell their story

Friday, April 12, 2013

WESTHAMPTON — In addition to the everyday challenges of trying to understand mumbling classmates or keep up with teachers using new words, the four deaf freshmen at Hampshire Regional High School needed to find a way to educate their peers about hearing loss. Then everyone would feel more comfortable around each other and start making friends, said Ashley Kachelmeyer, the …

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