Serving All Children Together
Since 2004, Hope for Miami has provided summer camp experiences for Deaf or hard-of-hearing students. We recently talked with Kimmy Daniels who heads up this program site now.
Hi Kimmy, Tell us how you serve on the HFM team, a little about your background and how you got connected to us. I’m the Site Supervisor at Hope for Miami’s summer camp at Gulfstream Elementary. I was born and raised in Jacksonville. We moved to Miami when I was fifteen and I was educated in the Miami-Dade Public School system at Palmetto Sr. High. I attended Miami Dade College and Barry University. Both of my parents were teachers (one was a Principal) so naturally I followed in their footsteps! I have worked for M-DCPS for over 27 years, teaching and mentoring students with disabilities. I absolutely love what I do! In 2018, a colleague thought well enough of me to suggest that I would be a good fit to join the new summer site at Gulfstream Elementary. So when the opportunity came for me to join the Hope For Miami family, it was a “no-brainer decision.” Working summer camp brings me so much joy! Learning, creating, exploring and laughing with our kiddos makes my heart smile! When did the Gulfstream Elementary site begin? I saw the need to include Deaf and Hard of Hearing students (DHH) into our camp here at Gulfstream Elementary in 2021, as there were not many options for that population. So, what are some of the activities each summer, are hearing-abled students included in the program and who is our teacher of the Deaf? One of the features I wanted for our summer camp was that our hearing children might be exposed to American Sign Language (ASL) and our DHH children to have role models who would bridge the gap in their communication. So I solicited the expertise of a DHH co-worker, Natalie Contreras. She, along with a hearing instructor and a sign language interpreter, communicate and execute all activities on our schedule. The classroom dynamics include children who are Deaf, hearing-abled, on the spectrum as well as general education kids. DHH students are included in all activities, crafts, play, and field-trips. Our sign language interpreter joins us on field trips to help Natalie and students "hear" presentations. As a result, DHH children are communicating more with their teachers and classmates and hearing-abled children are learning words, phrases and songs in American Sign Language. Finally, what do you see as the impact of the camps each summer in the lives of attendees? The impact of including DHH students in an inclusive summer camp is immeasurable!! Our parents are grateful for the opportunity of having their child participate in summer camp. They know they are safe, happy and communicating with their peers. The children never want to go home at the end of the day, but are excited to share each adventure of the day! New friendships are formed and bonds are made. Hearing-abled children are eager to share any new sign they have learned. Kimmy, we are so grateful to you and your team for your meaningful and impactful endeavors! Thanks to each of you!
to see Natalie Contreras “in action” with students