CEASD + Capitol Connection = Success!

The first week of March saw Washington, DC gain an extra 62 visitors from 7 different Deaf schools! In an exciting and new collaboration between CEASD (Conference of Educational Administrators for Schools and Programs of the Deaf) and Hands On Travel, the Capitol Connection program was developed in order to enhance CEASD’s annual Education and Advocacy Summit for high school students.  The purpose of the Education and Advocacy Summit, a 2-day event, is to promote awareness and advocacy on the behalf of deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, and deafdisabled children everywhere in the United States, including but not limited to improving provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Summit is now in its 9th year and very successful, and was ready for an expansion to enrich the attending students’ experiences even more. Enter HOT! With Melinda Harrison Jones, HOT’s Educational Tours coordinator, on board, an expanded and enhanced program was developed to incorporate more of Washington, DC so that the students could have a world-class experience and make deeper, meaningful connections to the advocacy work they would be doing.

The Capitol Connection took students to places such as the National Archives, National Portrait Gallery, a visit to the new DC Mayor’s Deaf, Deafdisabled and Hard-of-Hearing offices, as well as a fun charter bus tour through all the classical Washington monuments and Arlington Cemetery (guided by no other than Martin Dale-Hench, one of our HOT guides). Students and their teachers also had an opportunity to do a Gallaudet University open house event and campus tour, as well as CEASD’s Youth Summit with various agencies (NAD, Gallaudet’s Center for Democracy in Deaf America, Gallaudet Youth Programs, and more). All of this was capped off with a visit to Capitol Hill where the students and their teachers got to meet with their states’ respective senators, legislators and staff to get their support for the Cogswell-Macy Act. Evening activities included a private dining experience at Mozzeria DC, watching the finalists duke it out at the Youth Debate Bowl, and a trip to Gallaudet’s E-Sports room. 

It was certainly a fun and busy week for everyone involved! Students got to experience the DC way of life, which included a good amount of walking and taking the metro. During those times, they were able to get to know each other, interact, and develop new friendships. “Capital Connection was an amazing way to give our students a deaf-centered and 100% accessible educational experience in the heartbeat of our nation with advocacy in mind”, said Tawny Holmes Hlibok, Esq., Executive Director of CEASD. The success of this was so widely recognized, that next year’s Capitol Connection event is already being planned with new updates! Stay tuned for an official announcement sometime next month! HOT is very excited to add the Capitol Connection program as part of our Educational Tours division, and look forward to the growth and greater success of the program for years to come. 

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