‘DeafTown’ Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum experience created especially for deaf and hard of hearing students

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Around 50 deaf students from Utah, Colorado, and Idaho had a first-hand experience at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum’s first-ever “DeafTown”. 

“DeafTown” is a created learning experience teaching deaf or hard of hearing kids about financial literacy in their own town. 

This is the first event of its kind to be held in Utah, the second to be held in the United States.

Attending students played the roles of mayor, banker, business owner, consumer, and more.  

Jonathon Helgesen, Transition Specialist for the Utah Schools of the Deaf says Friday’s event is all about these student’s futures. 

“Today’s event, the big picture for it is to help the students develop their skills in regards to life skills,” Helgesen says. 

During the event, students learned how to fill out a resume, how to behave during an interview and were exposed to other concepts they will one day need in the workforce. 

Each activity throughout “DeafTown” is in the student’s first language, American Sign Language. The Junior Achievement City at Discovery Gateway completely adapted the entire experience to best benefit the students. 

“DeafTown” has removed many of the everyday challenges deaf or hard of hearing people experience. “In the real world, of course, there’s going to be more barriers when it comes to language. If you have a barrier there is a way to get that barrier removed, and you can be successful just like anyone else that can do things, even though I’m deaf I can show that I can work…..I can do these things,” Helgesen adds. 

The Utah School for the Deaf, The Sorensen Center, Gallaudet University and the Junior Achievement organizations collaborated to bring the “DeafTown” experience to Utah and has been funded by a grant from the State Office of Education. 

Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) educate students who are deaf, blind, or deaf-blind in helping them achieve their full academic, social, and career potential. 

Pablo Miaya, Mayor of Junior Achievement City says this experience has been rewarding to him because it’s allowed it to be in charge. He wants to become a teacher when he grows up and says “DeafTown” makes him excited for his future. 

Pablo Miaya

“Really the biggest thing I want to say is that deaf people, all of us, we have full potential just like anyone else. We can work, we can do anything that anyone else can do. We absolutely can do it,” Miaya says. 

Utah’s deaf students are ranked number one nationwide for high school completion, based on data taken nationwide.

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