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Deaf & Hard of Hearing

Deaf Mentors

Northwest Region

  • Linda Fairbanks
    Linda Fairbanks

    Linda was born in Austin, Minnesota and raised in the Spring Valley/Wykoff area in Southeastern Minnesota. She attended Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf (MSAD) as well as Rochester Community College (Minnesota). Linda was born deaf into a family with many other Deaf members. She learned ASL through her Deaf Aunt and Uncle on her mother’s side of the family. In addition to being married to a Deaf man for the last 16 years, Linda also has three sons, two of whom are Deaf. Upon researching family history, they found they have a Great-great-great-great Grandfather who was also Deaf!
    Linda has been a Deaf Mentor since January 2015. She became a mentor after her daughter-in-law suggested she help fill the gap and connect families to ASL in the Northwestern Minnesota area. Linda knows that in rural areas it can be difficult to find resources. She enjoys being able to provide ASL to families that might not have been able to because of their location.
    Linda enjoys doing family tree building as well as spending time with her family and her Norfolk terrier cross, Sam! She is the president of the MSAD Alumni Association and writes and edits articles for them, as well as for the Evangelical Lutheran Deaf Association. Additionally, she is on the Proceedings Committee for the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens. She loves all the seasons Minnesota has to offer but is not into winter sports of any kind.

  • Michele Rolewitz
    Michele Rolewitz

    Michele was born in Moorhead, Minnesota and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. She graduated from the North Dakota School for the Deaf and attended the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. She has worked for North Dakota State University for the past 37 years as a Financial Aid and Scholarship Specialist. Michele was born deaf, weighing 4 pounds 7 ounces, as she was two months premature. Michele was taught ASL from birth, as her grandparents are both Deaf, and their children use ASL.
    Michele has been a Deaf Mentor since November 2013. She became a mentor because she enjoys teaching ASL to families with Deaf children. She has taught ASL at university, secondary and community education levels. Michele feels it is very important for families to have full communication with ASL. It makes her very happy to see Deaf children communicating with their family and friends in ASL.
    Michele has three daughters who have blessed her with seven grandchildren with one more on the way in January of 2020! She also has three cats. She enjoys gardening, canning, traveling, reading and spending time with her families. Michele has a knack for making others smile and bringing positivity to any situation.

Northeast Region

  • Joyce Atchison
    Joyce Atchison

    Joyce was born and raised in North Mankato and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. She attained a B.S. in Special Education and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Saint Cloud State University, and a Masters in Deaf Education from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Joyce is retired from a long career of working with Deaf and hard of hearing children in two distinct roles, Teacher and Mental Health Therapist. In addition to her work as a Deaf Mentor, she is also a Senior In-Home Caregiver.
    Joyce became a Deaf Mentor in 2014. She joined the Deaf Mentor Family Program because she wanted to continue making a difference in the lives of Deaf/Hard of Hearing children and their families. Joyce is post-lingually deaf, she contracted the measles at the age of 5 and a high fever caused her deafness. She considers herself hard of hearing and utilizes bi-modal communication with spoken English and ASL. Joyce learned ASL at the age of 18 through community education classes. Learning ASL opened an entirely new world for her that led her to her life and career path working with Deaf children in a multitude of capacities.
    Joyce has two adult children, one of which is hard of hearing. Joyce loves spending time with her children and the grandchildren they have given her. She also enjoys spending time with friends out in nature. Although retired, Joyce stays busy by volunteering. She does this as a coordinator and director at the Northeast Minnesota Deaf/Hard of Hearing Youth and Family Group, as well as for the Minnesota Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children’s Family Camp. Because of her youthful appearance, people often guess she is 20 years younger than she really is!

  • Jackie Haley
    Jackie Haley

    Jackie was born and raised in Southern California. She moved to Big Fork, Minnesota when she was 26. As a young adult, she attended Gallaudet University and gained a rich experience. Jackie received her Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from Itasca Community College, and her Elementary Education degree from Bemidji State University. Jackie was born deaf and started learning ASL from a Deaf friend and her neighbor at the age of 14. She uses bi-modal communication by using ASL and spoken English. Jackie works as a Lead DeafBlind Intervener at her local school district.
    Jackie became a Deaf Mentor in April 2016. She became one because she feels very strongly that deaf children should have access to ASL and to give them a chance at a better experience with communication than she did while growing up. Jackie is incredibly proud of ASL and Deaf Culture; she is in her second year of teaching through Itasca Community Education.
    Jackie loves being outdoors. She loves going camping and hiking, especially places in which her family has never been. She has four children and they love the new adventures they find while hiking and camping. Jackie is very passionate about teaching ASL and sharing her experiences!

  • Mandy MacDonald
    Mandy MacDonald

    Mandy was born and raised in Biwabik, Minnesota. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Minnesota – Duluth. Mandy was born deaf but it went undetected until she was two years old. When she was two and a half, a teacher came to her family’s home and taught her family sign language. She uses bi-modal communication by using ASL and spoken English at home.
    Mandy has worked continuously as a Deaf Mentor since 2009, originating under the Minnesota Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division and then under Lifetrack in May of 2012. Mandy became a Deaf Mentor because she felt the need to pay-it-forward from her family’s experience in having a teacher come to their home and teach them ASL. When Mandy was growing up, she loved attending large social events set up for Deaf and hard of hearing children. These events gave her a space in which she could belong and use the ASL she was given. Mandy also works for St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services.
    Mandy loves to read and is a huge fan of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. She loves cats and shares her home with three of them! Mandy has one hearing son, who is an ASL user. She is also in the process of becoming a Certified Deaf Interpreter!

East/West Central Region

  • Stephanie Nutt
    Stephanie Nutt

    Stephanie is from Brainerd, Minnesota. She attended Gallaudet University majoring in Communication Studies. She works as a Direct Support Staff for a group home with adult foster clients. Stephanie became deaf at the age of 2 from spinal meningitis. She learned ASL with other Deaf children and interpreters after being enrolled in preschool. Stephanie was mainstreamed growing up, and attending Gallaudet gave her a rich, life-changing experience as well as improved her ASL. She uses bi-modal communication in ASL and spoken English. Stephanie became a Deaf Mentor in August of 2018. Having grown up as the only Deaf person in her family, she recognizes the need and impact for ASL and wants to help Deaf children have access to ASL. Stephanie loves to paint and loves dogs tremendously, she hopes to have a dog in the future. In 2017 Stephanie traveled to Costa Rica and rode on one of the top 10 ziplines in the world!

  • Sharon Rosen
    Sharon Rosen

    Sharon was born and raised in Melrose, Minnesota. She attended Minnesota School for the Deaf (MSD, now Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf) and received her Associate of Science degree in Horticulture/Landscape Design from the University of Minnesota, Waseca. Sharon was born deaf and has two brothers that are Deaf, in addition to aunts, sisters-in-law, her nieces and nephews. Sharon started learning ASL at the age of seven through MSD. She is bi-modal in communication, using ASL and spoken English when needed. Sharon also works by helping her community church and teaching ASL at the local community center.
    Sharon has been a Deaf Mentor since 2000, originally under the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division and then continuing with Lifetrack in October 2012. She decided to become a Deaf Mentor because of her experience growing up. Sharon and her brothers grew up attending MSD, living five days a week away from their parents and having no access to a Deaf Mentor program. As a result, her parents did not sign, and their family struggled with communication as she was growing up. Her passion is to teach children and their families ASL and the importance of embracing Deafness/Deaf Culture. Sharon’s experience at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) really helped shape her sense of self because she was exposed to many different types of Deaf people from all over the country.
    Sharon’s hobbies include gardening, biking, photography, hiking, and snowshoeing. She has been married to her husband for over 30 years, and together they have four children who are fluent in ASL. She recently became a grandmother and is very excited about it being a new chapter of her life! She is also one of nine children, two of whom are ASL interpreters!

  • Emily Smith-Lundberg
    Emily Smith-Lundberg

    Emily was born and raised in Nisswa, Minnesota. She attended Brainerd High School and received her bachelor’s degree in Deaf Studies from Gallaudet University. Emily is currently the Camp Director of Camp Sertoma, owner of Dreams & Inspirations LLC, an ASL mentor and a Deaf Advocate. She was born deaf to hearing parents, and starting at the age of 2 months, her parents taught themselves and Emily ASL. Emily can use bi-modal communication, having learned to speak English through speech therapy growing up.
    Emily has been a Deaf Mentor since August 2012. She became a mentor because of her parent’s tenacity and eagerness to learn more about Deaf culture and ASL. Emily’s parents decided early on that she needed to see other Deaf children and adults, which helped all of them navigate Emily’s deafness, a sense of advocacy, and involvement in the Deaf community. Her experiences showed her how important and beneficial it is for Deaf children to see happy, healthy, and confident Deaf adults. The foundation Emily’s parents laid out for her has fostered her desire to support and bring together Deaf and hard of hearing children. She achieves this through her leadership of Camp Sertoma, as a business owner, and a Deaf Mentor.
    Emily and her Deaf husband have two beautiful children who are native signers. Their family also consists of a Cavalier King Charles/Poodle mix named Simon that is their service dog, and an orange tabby named Flynn who thinks he is a dog! Emily is truly an outdoorswoman, she loves camping, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, ice fishing, skiing, swimming, and traveling. Emily can do headstand and has been able to since she was two!

South Region

  • Amanda Bavlnka
    Amanda Bavlnka

    Amanda was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Psychology from Winona State University. Amanda was born deaf but her parents did not discover this until she was ten months old. Her parents took sign language classes with her and she uses ASL as her main mode of communication.
    Amanda became a Deaf Mentor in April of 2015. She decided to become one because she wants to help parents communicate with their Deaf children; to help families include their Deaf children in their everyday lives instead of feeling left out. Amanda also works as a Special Education Program Assistant as well as a Deafblind Intervener. Amanda loves to read, it is her favorite hobby. She also loves going camping and spending time with her daughter.

  • Heather Breitbach
    Heather Breitbach

    Heather was raised in the small farm town of Melrose, MN and currently resides in Northfield. Upon completing her mainstream education in St. Cloud, she attended Gallaudet University and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Heather currently works as a school psychologist for the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. Heather was born deaf and has many family members who are also deaf. Because her parents are both deaf, she has been using ASL since birth. Heather has been a Deaf Mentor since June 2019. Through her work as a school psychologist, she constantly sees the benefit that D/HH children receive when they have access to ASL as well as the Deaf community. Being a Deaf Mentor allows her to give back to the community and help provide families with the information they need. Heather loves hiking, traveling, and reading. She is currently on a mission to complete a visit to each of Minnesota’s 67 state parks and is half way through!

  • Damian Forkner
    Damian Forkner

    Damian was born in Portland, Oregon and raised in Arizona and Washington state. He received his Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Damian became deaf at the age of eighteen months from spinal meningitis. He began learning ASL at the age of two, and a year later his parents enrolled him in the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind. Damian’s parents learned ASL through a Deaf mentor program there, and his ASL acquisition improved rapidly with them. He is now an ASL instructor at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
    Damian has been a Deaf Mentor since August 2012. He became one because of his experience in Arizona, where he was able to communicate with his parents in ASL through the teachings of their Deaf Mentor. Damian has a strong desire to give back to the community, and works tirelessly to give children, parents, and adults access to ASL through his work as an ASL instructor and as a Deaf Mentor.
    Damian has many hobbies that he enjoys. He loves camping, hiking, biking, coaching, playing any sport he can, including his favorite – basketball. Damian enjoys reading science fiction books and learning about astronomy. He also loves spending time with his wife and their daughter, who is fluent in ASL. Damian is a huge fan of Stargate!

  • Melissa Forkner
    Melissa Forkner

    Melissa was born and raised in Minnesota. She graduated from the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf (MSAD) and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre from Minnesota State University – Mankato. Melissa is a stay-at-home mother and wife, and home schools her daughter. Melissa was born deaf and is the only Deaf person in her family but has a nephew that is hard of hearing. She started learning at the age of two, through preschool classes.
    Melissa became a Deaf Mentor in February 2014. She decided to become a mentor because when she was growing up, her mother did not have a mentor to guide her through Melissa’s deafness and ASL journey. Melissa knows the importance of having a support system and that her mother was lucky to have been embraced by MSAD’s community. When Melissa was five years old her mother relocated them to Faribault so she could attend MSAD and both were able to integrate into the community. Melissa became a lifelong alumnus, and they gave her mother an opportunity to be a teacher’s aide to learn more about Deaf culture and ASL. This fuels Melissa’s desire to give back to Deaf children and their families by being a Deaf Mentor.
    Melissa loves swimming, crafts, painting, sewing, drawing and making homemade food. She is interested in learning other languages and is teaching herself Latin and Spanish.

  • Edna Quinby
    Edna Quinby

    Edna was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia until the age of 13, in which her family moved to Orlando, Florida. She attended West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (WVSDB) and graduated from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Edna currently works for the Mayo Clinic as a lab assistant in Cell Kinetics. She was born deaf and is the only Deaf person in her family. Edna started learning ASL in her mainstream preschool classes, and then became fluent after attending WVSDB. She has been married to her husband for 26 years and they have two beautiful hearing daughters.
    Edna has been a Deaf Mentor since September 2019. She decided to become one because growing up, her family did not sign. She felt left out and frustrated about not being able to communicate with her family and believes that no Deaf child should feel the same. She wants to teach parents ASL so that they may communicate with their child effectively and give children the means to express themselves.
    Edna is an avid dog lover and feels that dogs are like humans with their diverse personalities. She has a giant twenty-two pound yorkie and a ten-pound chi-weenie. Edna’s family is still back in Florida and they visit each other as often as they can and they are thankful they can keep in touch through modern technology!

Metro Region

  • Jessi Aguilar
    Jessi Aguilar

    Jessica was born in Alexandria, MN but considers Motley, MN her hometown. She attended Coon Rapids High School and went on to Gallaudet University. She received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Women’s Studies. She uses this degree as the Program Assistant for the Deaf Mentor Family Program and is a Deaf Mentor as well. Hearing screenings were not performed at the time of Jessica’s birth which resulted in a delayed hearing loss identification at the age of 3. She began learning ASL at the age of 4, when her family relocated to the Twin Cities and into a district with bi-lingual communication. She has a younger sister who identifies as hard-of-hearing. Jessica identifies as Deaf but with the aid of speech therapy and hearing aids, is bi-lingual in both ASL and spoken English with a preference to ASL. She also took Spanish in college, which gives her a basic understanding of the language.
    Jessica became a Deaf Mentor in 2012, and is DMFP’s Lead Deaf Mentor (Metro). She became a Deaf Mentor because it is her passion to teach families ASL to improve their communication with their children. Programs like DMFP were not available when she was growing up, and as a result, her parents do not sign. It is disheartening for her, but she is fortunate to have a deaf sister to communicate with.
    Jessica has two dogs that she adores and 3 beautiful daughters who are also learning ASL. She enjoys gardening, painting, reading, and traveling. Every summer Jessica and her family raise monarch butterflies and release them, and this year they also raised swallowtail butterflies.

  • Jeff Belevender
    Jeff Belevender

    Jeff was born and raised in Michigan. He has a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Gallaudet University. Jeff was born deaf, and he has several other deaf family members throughout his family tree on both his mother and father’s side of the family. Jeff learned sign language throughout secondary school but became fluent after attending Gallaudet University.
    Jeff has been a Deaf Mentor since June 2015. He decided to become a Deaf Mentor because he wanted to give back to other families with Deaf children, so they have better access than he did. Jeff felt that because he grew up with limited knowledge of Deaf culture and ASL exposure, he was missing out on something. It wasn’t until he went to Gallaudet that his whole world changed, and he found his place. Jeff is married to a Deaf woman and together they have two children, one of which is Deaf, but both are fluent signers.
    Jeff loves ice fishing, fishing, farming and is a handyman! He and his wife own a ten-acre farm that is home to many animals such as goats, ducks, horses, and chickens. They run an organization that is a sanctuary for blind horses who need homes or extra care.

  • Cynthia Benson
    Cynthia Benson

    Cynthia was born in Liberia, West Africa. She and her family moved to the United States when she was eleven years old. Cynthia has an Associate’s degree in Graphic Design from Hennepin Technical College. She became deaf at the age of five when she became very ill. While living in Liberia, Cynthia used gestures and learned Liberian Sign Language to communicate. She describes it as a mixture of British Sign Language and ASL. Upon moving to the United States, Cynthia learned ASL from her middle school interpreter and her peers.
    Cynthia has been a Deaf Mentor since September 2019. When she heard about the Deaf Mentor Family Program, she was motivated to become one because of her desire to work with deaf persons of color and help them connect to their family members. Cynthia also works at Shutterfly working on binding machines, assembling photo books for schools, weddings, birthdays. She also works in the shipping department at Shutterfly.
    Cynthia enjoys adventure hiking and camping, cooking volleyball, basketball and traveling. In middle school she joined the Falcon Signer’s Club and learned how to play taiko drums. Cynthia has performed the National Anthem in ASL at her high school’s Homecoming game. She also served as the captain of the ASL club at her high school and got to teach her peers ASL!

  • Jackie Correa-Alley
    Jackie Correa-Alley

    Jackie was proudly born in Puerto Rico and raised in Massachusetts. She graduated from New York School for the Deaf, known as Fanwood and received a degree in Data Entry and Business Clerk from Saint Paul College. Jackie primarily works as a Deaf Mentor. While Jackie is the only Deaf person in her immediate family, she has an aunt and other cousins who are Deaf. Her aunt gave her access to ASL as a child, which she expanded on in preschool. In addition to knowing ASL and English, Jackie is fluent in Spanish, making her tri-lingual!
    Jackie has been a Deaf Mentor since December 2015. She decided to become a Deaf Mentor because she had the desire to be a Hispanic role model for Hispanic Deaf children. She understands the value of learning the language the culture she was born in, giving her access to other native Spanish speakers. But when adding deafness to the many layers of communication, she also sees the need for parents and their children to have access to ASL.
    Jackie has been and still is, active in the Deaf and Hispanic Deaf community. She currently serves as the Vice President of Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, is a board member of Deaf Women of Minnesota, is a contributor to the New England Latino Deaf Association. In the past Jackie has taught ASL at all education levels from community education and up to college courses. She loves being outdoors, camping, traveling, sewing, and crafting silk flowers.

    Jackie nació con orgullo en Puerto Rico y se crió en Massachusetts. Se graduó de la Escuela para Sordos de Nueva York, conocida como Fanwood y recibió un título en Entrada de Datos y Empleada de Negocios de Saint Paul College. Jackie trabaja principalmente como mentor sordo. Si bien Jackie es la única persona sorda en su familia inmediata, tiene una tía y otros primos que son sordos. Su tía le dio acceso a ASL cuando era niña, que amplió en preescolar. Además de saber inglés y ASL, ¡Jackie habla español con fluidez, haciéndola trilingüe!
    Jackie ha sido Mentor Sordo desde diciembre de 2015. Decidió convertirse en Mentor Sordo porque tenía el deseo de ser un modelo hispano para los niños sordos hispanos. Ella entiende el valor de aprender el idioma en la cultura en la que nació, dándole acceso a otros hablantes nativos de español. Pero cuando agrega sordera a las muchas capas de comunicación, también ve la necesidad de que los padres y sus hijos tengan acceso a ASL.
    Jackie ha estado y sigue siendo activa en la comunidad sorda e hispana sorda. Actualmente se desempeña como Vicepresidenta de la Asociación de Ciudadanos Sordos de Minnesota, es miembro de la junta de Mujeres Sordas de Minnesota, es colaboradora de la Asociación de Sordos Latinos de Nueva Inglaterra. En el pasado, Jackie ha enseñado ASL en todos los niveles educativos, desde educación comunitaria y hasta cursos universitarios. Le encanta estar al aire libre, acampar, viajar, coser y hacer flores de seda.

  • Julie Friesen
    Julie Friesen

    Julie was born and raised in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development from Gallaudet University. Julie was born deaf due to genetics, she has several family members on both sides that have various level of deafness. Julie started learning sign language with her parents when she was a baby, right after they discovered she was deaf.
    Julie became a Deaf Mentor in March 2018. She loves working with children and their families, teaching them as well as learning from them. Julie knows how important it is to be able to communicate with family, and being a Deaf Mentor allows her to give that to the families she works with. Julie’s primary job is being a Deaf Mentor, because her desire to teach ASL and bring Deaf children to the Deaf community is very strong. She brings excitement, joy, and fun to all the families she works with. Julie is married to a Deaf man and they have two children who are fluent signers.
    Julie’s favorite hobbies are scrapbooking and watching Netflix! She is also involved in missionary trips and has been to Haiti five times through her volunteering experiences. Julie also comes from a very large family, with 6 siblings, the last of which is her Deaf brother.

  • Brooks Hassman
    Brooks Hassman

    Brooks was born in Brooklyn Park, MN and raised in Champlin, MN. He received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He works as a Campus Security Officer for Starkey Hearing Technologies. Brooks has been Deaf since birth and started learning ASL around the age of 2 because he was refusing to wear his hearing aids! He uses bi-modal communication in ASL and Spoken English. Brooks is the only Deaf person in his family. Brooks became a Deaf Mentor in January 2019 because he feels that is how he can give back to the community by providing guidance to hearing parents of Deaf children. He loves to lift weights, play hockey and walk his dogs. His favorite color is blue!

  • Julianne Kinney
    Julianne Kinney

    Julianne was born in Illinois. She grew up in several different states because her father was in the military. She graduated from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) in Washington, DC and attended Gallaudet University. Julianne received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Metropolitan State University in Individualized Studies/Deaf Education and Advocacy with a minor in Human Service Disability Studies. Julianne was born deaf. She started learning sign language as a baby, after her parents took a proactive stance on taking sign language classes. Julianne uses bi-modal communication by using ASL and spoken English. Julianne works as a teacher’s assistant for a local school district.
    Julianne has been a Deaf Mentor since October 2017. She became a Deaf Mentor because it gave her a chance to share her story and make an impact on parents with it. Julianne also enjoys seeing parents and children grow and bloom when they learn ASL together. While Julianne credits her mainstreamed education for giving her a foundation in ASL, it was at MSSD that her life changed for the better. She found that with her Deaf peers, she was able to jump into more social activities and be a bigger part of the Deaf community.
    Julianne loves to read, travel, spend time with her family, go camping and be in nature. She is married to a Deaf man and together they have two sons who are fluent in ASL. Julianne has two dogs, one of whom is deaf and blind, and they both know ASL! Julianne is also part of the elite 10%, as a lefty!

  • Kathy Manlapas
    Kathy Manlapas

    Kathy was born in West Virginia and raised in North Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Deaf Education from Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina and her Master of Arts in Education from Hamline University. She has been a teacher for the Deaf and hard of hearing for over 20 years! Kathy was born deaf because of German measles, is the only Deaf person in her family, and started learning ASL at the age of 19. She learned ASL through friends and watching interpreters in college. She utilizes bi-modal communication with ASL and spoken English.
    Kathy has been a Deaf Mentor since June 2018. She became a mentor because she feels her experiences as a Deaf person was strengthened by her learning ASL and believes that sharing knowledge is important. Additionally, her teaching experience was limited to older teenagers and adults and the Deaf Mentor Family Program allowed her to expand and share her experiences with younger children and their families.
    Kathy has a blended family that consists of three sons, whom she is incredibly proud to be their mom! She and her husband also have two dogs, her love for being on the water led her to enjoying activities such as kayaking, reading, and traveling. Kathy fell in love with camping, rock climbing, and canoeing during her experience at Outward Bound in North Carolina!

  • Audra McCorkle
    Audra McCorkle

    Audra was born in Englewood, Colorado and raised in Greeley, Colorado. She received her Bachelor of Art from the University of Arizona, and her Master of Art from the University of Northern Colorado. She is a teacher by profession.
    Audra has been Deaf since birth and started learning ASL at the age of 18 month and is the only Deaf person in her family. Audra uses bi-modal communication in ASL and Spoken English. She found her identity while attending the University of Arizona for Deaf Studies and her parents exposed her as much as possible to the Deaf community and events. Audra became a Deaf Mentor in 2011 because her family had one in Colorado. She believes it saved her family and gave her a relationship with them, so she wanted to give back to the community the same way. Audra loves rodeo and training horses. Her favorite animals are horses and dogs. She also competes in barrel racing with a professional rodeo association!

  • Dr. Gloria Nathanson
    Dr. Gloria Nathanson

    Gloria was born and raised in Minnesota, and currently lives in White Bear Lake. She received her B.A. degree in Language Development on Emphasis on those with Hearing Loss” from the University of Minnesota. Gloria also has her Doctor of Audiology degree from Gallaudet University. She is a professor at St. Catherine University. Gloria was born deaf, due to genetics. Because both her parents are Deaf, ASL is her native language. She has a Deaf brother and a hearing sister. Gloria’s husband is also Deaf, they have four children, two of whom are Deaf.
    Gloria has been a Deaf Mentor since 2012. She feels that it is ingrained in her professional and personal beliefs that she should share her knowledge with others. Because knowledge is power, she became a Deaf Mentor to empower families of deaf/hard of hearing children.
    Between teaching, raising her children, speaking at conferences Gloria loves to read, scrapbook, and travel. In 1996 she competed for and won the title of Miss Deaf Minnesota!

  • Ashley Reuss
    Ashley Reuss

    Ashley was born in Southern California and raised in Tennessee and Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and her Master’s degree in Deaf Studies/Sign Language Teaching from Gallaudet University. Ashley became deaf at the age of two from an ongoing set of ear infections and medical practitioner error. Shortly after this her parents placed her in a pre-kindergarten class at Riverside Deaf school and learned ASL with her. Ashley uses bi-modal communication by using ASL and with the aid of intensive therapy, spoken English. She is also the only deaf person in her family. She works for a non-profit that assists Deaf and Hard of hearing adults in vulnerable or unsafe relationships as an Advocate for their safety and well-being.
    Ashley became a Deaf Mentor in December 2015. She became one because she is passionate about sharing ASL and giving families the opportunity to communicate with one another. Ashley believes that ASL gives a child a sense of belonging with their families that sign with them, and that is the biggest gift she can pass on to other families. She is incredibly grateful that her family was given ASL and that it strengthened her relationships within her family.
    Ashley has a unique experience as a cochlear implant recipient. At the age of three, she was one of the first cochlear implant child recipients in the 1980’s. Her first implant was a single channel capacity implant, which was upgraded when she was fourteen. Between reimplantation she benefitted from environmental awareness and her speech continued to improve, but a year after her upgrade she chose to stop wearing it. Ashley spent ten years without using her implant, choosing to discover herself on her own terms; reaching out to the Deaf community and finding her place. Though it was not without its struggles, Ashley emerged stronger, more connected to the Deaf community, and chooses to wear her implant when the need arises. Ashley enjoys listening to music with her implant. Ashley’s sense of self expanded greatly at Gallaudet. Having grown up without a Deaf role model, Gallaudet give her the belief she could do anything – and she does. Ashley adores her two dogs and cat, they complete her life! In her spare time, she hangs out with her friends and her dogs.

  • Migdalia Rogers
    Migdalia Rogers

    Migdalia is from Boston, Massachusetts. She received her Associate of Applied Science from Rochester Institute of Technology and works as a Medical Claims Processor for Arch Language Network. Migdalia became hard of hearing at the age of 4 due to an ear infection, and Deaf after an accident during a visit to the ocean. She learned to sign a in high school but flourished with her peers when she attended the National Technological Institute for the Deaf / Rochester Institute of Technology. Migdalia uses tri-modal communication in ASL, Spanish, and Spoken English. Her grandmother was also deaf but passed away when she was only 16, and she has a daughter of her own that is hearing. Migdalia became a Deaf Mentor in March of 2019. She decided to become one because she loves to teach and educate, as well as recognizes the importance of ASL in deaf and hard of hearing children. She is active in the Deaf Community as a Treasurer for Deaf Equity and is currently working on a project for Deaf Domestic Abuse Survivors. In addition to being an independent thinker, Migdalia loves to read books, do crafts, and play with her Maltese and Chihuahua!

  • Melissa Schroeder
    Melissa Schroeder

    Melissa was born and raised in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She attended the National Technological Institute for the Deaf and received her A.A.S from the Administrative Assistant program. Melissa is a Referral Specialist for ASL Interpreting Services, Minnesota’s largest ASL interpreting referral agency. She was born Deaf and mainstreamed until seventh grade and then transferred to Wisconsin School for the Deaf. Melissa’s parents chose to teach her sign language despite their primary doctor discouraging them from doing so. As a special education teacher, Melissa’s mother believe that she should have more access to language. As a result, Melissa’s parents learned sign language alongside her.
    Melissa has been a Deaf Mentor since April 2019. She became a Deaf Mentor because she wanted to help Deaf children connect with their family members. Her experience with her own parents was a blessing, and she wants that for other children. Having communication between a parent and a child will only strengthen their relationship. Being left out is one of the toughest things a Deaf child can experience, and being a Deaf Mentor helps her bring families and children together in their everyday lives.
    Melissa’s family is a blended family. She has raised her husband’s oldest daughter with him, as well as adding two more to the mix. With one Deaf child and 2 hearing children, ASL is happily used at home. Melissa loves walking, reading, being with her family and dogs. She loves hot weather and summer is her favorite season!

  • Mai Vang
    Mai Vang

    Mai was born in Thailand and moved to the United States when she was a year old. She lived in Kansas for a few months before settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mai was mainstreamed in the Saint Paul Public School district, graduating from Highland Park High School. Mai started learning sign language through her preschool’s Deaf and hard of hearing program. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Human Service Family Studies at Metropolitan State University. In addition to being a student, she works for another non-profit organization that serves the adult Deaf and hard of hearing community. She works one-on-one with adults supporting them in their everyday lives as well as academically.
    Mai has been a Deaf Mentor since September 2015. She became a Deaf Mentor because she wanted to serve and support her community by sharing ASL and Deaf culture. In addition to being connected to the Deaf community, she also has a connection to the Hmong and Asian communities. Being a Deaf Mentor allows her to use her skills and motivation to help build bridges for families in each of these communities. Mai is driven to showing Deaf children and their families that they have the potential to achieve anything they want in their lives.
    Mai loves working on do-it-yourself projects when she has the time. She enjoys watching her son play hockey and being with her family. Mai is a huge fan of watching movies on Netflix and Disney+. Despite having seen a lot of movies, she admits she has never seen a single Star Wars movie!

  • Angela Wells
    Angela Wells

    Angela was born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin. She received her A.A.S. degree in Early Childhood Education from Dakota County Technical College, and her B.A. degree in Psychology from Gallaudet University. After being a stay-at-home-mom for nine years, Angela is now a high school ASL teacher. She was born deaf, and started learning ASL from her mother, who was self-taught from ASL books. Angela honed her bi-modal ASL with English speaking skills through a Deaf program in a mainstreamed preschool as well as attending Wisconsin School for the Deaf (WSD).
    Angela has been a Deaf Mentor since August 2018. She became a mentor because she wanted to make a positive difference for families, ensuring little to no communication barriers. Her experience at WSD and Gallaudet gave her experience with multiple communication styles as well as cultures, shaping her identity as a Deaf person.
    Angela has three sons who keep her on her toes as they love outdoor activities. They go to their family cabin to ride ATVs, go swimming, and hiking. Angela loves dogs and making farmhouse rustic woodwork décor. She also grew up in a predominately Polish household!

  • Leng Yang
    Leng Yang

    Leng is originally from Fresno, California but raised in Brooklyn Park, MN by way of Menomonie, WI. He received his Associates degree in Desktop Support from Hennepin Technical College in 2016 and works as a mental health worker in a group home. Leng’s hearing loss at birth was a result of being 3 months premature and he is the only hard-of-hearing person in his family. Leng started learning sign language through interpreters and D/HH teachers in Wisconsin, then picked up ASL with his peers in Minnesota. Leng is tri-lingual, having the knowledge of speaking Hmong, in addition to English and ASL.
    Leng has been a Deaf Mentor since June 2019. He chose to become a Deaf Mentor because he grew up wishing that more family members knew how to sign. He was appreciative of those who did learn but struggled greatly with those who did not. He believes that ASL is hugely beneficial and is happy to be a part of the Deaf Mentor Family Program to give children and their families the opportunity to communicate with ASL.
    Leng loves to play video games or computer games, editing videos, listening to music, shop online and socialize with his Deaf peers. He has also worked with another non-profit organization as a volunteer to help Deaf immigrant students learn ASL and English. Leng also helped them get accommodation for their level of communication.

Number of Clients Served in 2019

  • Employment Services

    733

  • Child & Family Services

    342

  • Deaf & Hard of Hearing - Family Services

    925

  • Delta Dental
    Delta Dental
  • Collegis Education
    Collegis Education
  • Wells Fargo
    Wells Fargo
  • Associated Bank
    Associated Bank
  • American Family Insurance
    American Family Insurance
  • Marbrook Foundation
    Marbrook Foundation
  • Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation
    Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation
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