Dear Alexander Graham Bell Community,
It is my honor and my pleasure to wish you joy throughout the holidays and into the New Year. I'm sure that, like me, you are looking forward to spending warm moments with family and friends, making memories that will last a lifetime, and reminiscing with loved ones.
My gift this holiday season is to look back at a remarkable year of growth and innovation at AG Bell, focused on better serving the families, professionals and adults with hearing loss who look to us for strength, guidance and assistance now and into the future. I am grateful to AG Bell staff members who dedicate their talents to our success, the professionals who contribute to our body of knowledge, and the individuals - parents, adults with hearing loss, and children growing up with Listening and Spoken Language - who share their stories of challenge and triumph to help us better understand what they need to succeed.
This past year, our supporters and contributors made it possible for AG Bell to enrich so many lives, and I'm happy I can share that with you.
I think the most enduring innovation at AG Bell in 2017 is the development of a new website. Although we are still in the process of building the site out with greater content and improved design, it is already an improvement in appearance and navigation. As we complete the project in the next month or so, you'll discover that it is far easier to find AG Bell and to find what you are looking for in our pages. The key inspiration to revise the site is the desire to make it easy for parents whose baby has been newly diagnosed with hearing loss to locate AG Bell as a source of credible information and effective support, a place for learning, connection to others, and hope for their child's future. Professionals, especially those on a path to certification, will find robust and knowledgeable resources that are up-to-date and relevant, and everyone will find ways to connect with each other and support each other.
The innovation with the broadest effect is the establishment of AG Bell International, the first global expansion in AG Bell's 127-year history. For nearly ten years, Spanish organizations CLAVE and Fundación Oír Es Clave followed AG Bell's vision and model to help children who are deaf and hard of hearing learn to hear and talk primarily by preparing professionals to serve them in Spain. This merger provides the perfect platform to reach Spanish speakers with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them in all Spanish-speaking populations, including those living in the United States. As we begin this new phase, we look forward to continuing our work together into the New Year to ensure that people who are deaf and hard of hearing throughout the world can learn to hear and talk.
Through the generosity of many forward thinking donors to AG Bell's endowment fund, we supported the college education of 30 more remarkable young adults. In 2017, high-achieving students received scholarships to attend outstanding schools across the U.S., as well as two American law schools and one medical school in Israel. We enabled two more students to participate in auditory research internships at prestigious universities last summer and brought three graduates of the Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT) Program to Washington, D.C. to work alongside AG Bell staff.
The 40 teens and eight counselors participating in our 2017 LOFT program continue to make use of the gifts of self-advocacy and leadership. LOFT has changed the lives of more than 440 teenagers since 1996, who not only found lifelong friends but also were empowered to use their minds and voices to speak out on behalf of themselves and others with hearing loss. Each year, I see how the LOFTees grow tremendously in the few days they spend together, collaborating on team-building exercises and self-advocacy activities that help them transition to independence. I am gratified to see that many LOFTees take those lessons back to their local AG Bell Chapter where they help parents see the potential for growth and success in their own child while also helping their communities understand the power of Listening and Spoken Language to remove obstacles in a child's path to independence and self-reliance.
Speaking of chapters, I invite you to celebrate with me the establishment of two new chapters in Tennessee and Alabama, bringing our total to 35 chapters across the United States. By this time next year, I expect to be announcing our 50th chapter and begin reaching out to affiliate chapter organizations in other countries. This growth can be attributed to several factors, but the most significant of them is the innovative Healthy Chapters Program. With dedicated guidance from a well-prepared chapter professional serving as AG Bell's Chapter Relations Manager, chapter leaders have found strong and effective structure, guidance and support to build up local organizations that bring people together to learn, share experiences, and advocate for themselves and children who are deaf and hard of hearing. We want all children to be able to achieve their dreams, and ensuring that they have the tools and support necessary to acquire literacy and a level playing field that removes barriers is just one of our responsibilities as a civil society.
The 2017 AG Bell Symposium was a wonderful time to see so many professionals, both new and familiar faces, come together to gain the latest knowledge of research and practice in our field. This Symposium took place in our own backyard in Washington, D.C., and attendees had the opportunity to hear from renowned speakers, to learn about the latest in the field of Listening and Spoken Language, and to network with colleagues at the historic Volta Bureau during "A Night in Georgetown." We brought several superstars to present this year, including our keynote speaker, Dr. Roberta Golinkoff.
AG Bell continues to work for you and the people with hearing loss who are important to you, but we couldn't do it without your help and support. I hope you will explore the new AG Bell website and catch the excitement we feel for this new endeavor. I hope you'll participate as we expand our digital presence across the world. And I hope you'll show your support by making a gift to AG Bell to help us continue to serve you well.
I wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holidays, and I look forward to beginning 2018 with you.
See you in the New Year,
Chief Executive Officer
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing