Event held in recognition of Clarke’s 150th Anniversary celebrations in 2017
CANTON— As part of its ongoing 150th anniversary celebrations to be held on the East Coast this fall, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech will hold an open house on Nov. 15 at its preschool at 1 Whitman Road.
The event is free and open to the public and is offered as a way to show community members how Clarke teaches children who are deaf or hard of hearing how to listen and talk.
From 10 to 11 a.m., members of the community are invited into the school to observe teachers and staff interacting with young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. “We are eager to show members of the public the remarkable work that we do to change children’s lives,” said Barbara Hecht, director of Clarke Boston. “Teaching a child born profoundly deaf or hard of hearing to listen and talk is an inspiring mission and one that we are passionate about.”
In honor of Clarke’s 150th, Gov. Charles D. Baker has issued a citation to Clarke, offering congratulations on the anniversary. Other legislators, including State Sen. Water F. Timilty and Jessica Doonan, chief of staff for the city of Boston Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities, are expected to attend the event.
Doonan assists the commission in reducing barriers for people with disabilities within the city of Boston. She got her undergraduate degree from Northeastern University in theater and American Sign Language and has been heavily involved with the deaf community in the Greater Boston area. At the commission, she has served on the Boston Deaf Tax Task Force, which works to provide free tax preparation to the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Doonan lives in Jamaica Plain and is pursuing a master of art degree in global inclusion and social development at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Clarke’s Boston campus opened 25 years ago, in 1995, and has been located in Canton since 1999. The campus includes four classrooms, therapy rooms, a parents’ room, offices and an outdoor playground. Classrooms use sound field amplification systems and are designed for the unique acoustical needs of children with hearing loss.
Clarke Boston serves children from birth to age 3 for early intervention, from ages 3-8 in an on-site school program, and from preschool through high school in mainstream services provided throughout eastern Massachusetts by Clarke’s itinerant teachers of the deaf. “We offer a unique learning environment designed to maximize each child’s development, while building their self-confidence and preparing them for success beyond Clarke,” said Hecht. “We partner with parents to provide the skills, knowledge and support they need to help their children reach their full potential.”
Children and families who receive services from Clarke Boston are from throughout eastern and central Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.
The open house in Canton—and a private event to be held at the Endicott Estate in Dedham on Oct. 26—are held in recognition of Clarke’s 150th anniversary to underscore Clarke’s rich history in serving children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families by teaching them to listen and talk.
Clarke was founded in Northampton, thanks to a $50,000 bequest from John Clarke, a wealthy Northampton businessman who lost his hearing in his later years. Alexander Graham Bell was also critical in the early development of Clarke’s listening and spoken language program, holding leadership positions at Clarke for over 51 years. His granddaughter, Sarah Grosvenor of Washington, D.C., now sits on Clarke’s Board of Trustees. She is the founder and president of The Alexander& Mabel Bell Legacy Foundation.
For many years, Clarke offered residential educational services for children who were deaf or hard of hearing in Northampton, and at that time, students often did not enter mainstream schools, learning or working alongside peers with typical hearing, until they were teenagers.
Today, with the advent of technology such as cochlear implants, most students enter their neighborhood schools by first grade. For this reason, 20 years ago, Clarke transitioned away from running one residential campus in Western Massachusetts to operating five campuses along the East Coast that together serve more than 1,200 children and their families.
Clarke has campuses in Northampton and Canton; New York City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Jacksonville and a preschool program in Orlando, Florida. Clarke serves children from birth to age 18 who use hearing technology—including cochlear implants or hearing aids—to maximize their access to sound; they receive individualized support from Clarke’s teachers and therapists.
Among its wide range of programs, Clarke offers early intervention services for children from birth to 3, early childhood classes, and a team of itinerant teachers of the deaf who serve students in mainstream school settings from preschool through high school. In recent years, Clarke has also developed a virtual learning program through which it uses technology to reach children and families globally.
“I don’t think Clarke would still exist if it had tried to hang on to what it used to be,” said Ward Caswell, president of the Beveridge Family Foundation, Inc., in Westfield which has supported Clarke for roughly 50 years. “The transition has been marvelous. It’s rare that you see such a high level of success in dealing with change.”
Clarke, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is currently funded by foundations such as Beveridge, and the Oberkotter Foundation, which support its model for listening and spoken language, as well as private organizations, businesses and individuals.
While Clarke today is serving nearly 300 children from birth to age three, it has identified that there are roughly 60,000 families with children in that age group in the United States who will need services by the year 2020, giving Clarke strong motivation to continue to expand its mission so that it can reach and teach more children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
As part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations, Clarke has established an 1867 Society, for those who make gifts of $1,000 or more, and it is actively raising funds with the hope of serving more families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing—in this region and across the globe.
“We have to be very nimble and figure out how to provide services to more families,” said Bruce A. Rosenfield, JD, executive director and one of three trustees of the Oberkotter Foundation, “Clarke is uniquely poised to do this.”
In recent years, Clarke has implemented new, innovative teaching tools, such as Project LENA, a technological coaching tool for parents, and the fun and educational Listening Walks at the Zoo, held in both Philadelphia and in Mendon and expanding to New York City in the spring of 2018.
Combined with the listening and spoken language tools Clarke has employed for many years, it is introducing sound to babies born into an otherwise silent world and inspiring young people who excel academically and grow into playwrights, actors, physicians and audiologists.
Upcoming anniversary events will also be held: Oct. 26 in Dedham; Nov. 6 in New York City; Nov. 8 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Dec. 9 in Jacksonville, Florida.
For more information on the anniversary events, or to donate to Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech or join its 1867 Society, contact Lillian Rountree, chief development officer, at email@example.com or 973-453-5635.
Learn more about Clarke at www.clarkeschools.org.