Joshua Seal knows first-hand what it’s like to grow up Deaf in Maine.

“As a Deaf individual who grew up going to public school, I was surrounded by people who could hear,” he said.

During his youth, Joshua felt isolated, different and yearned to connect with others his age who were also Deaf.

Today, he leads Pine Tree Society’s Interpreting Services and is using his personal experience as a springboard for the creation of an innovative new pilot program for youth who are Deaf called Pine Tree Camp’s Dirigo Experience.

“Pine Tree Society wants to invest in the future by stepping up to help Deaf youth develop a sense of connection and community now,” he said.

Pine Tree Camp’s Dirigo Experience is a collaboration between two Pine Tree Society programs: Pine Tree Camp and Interpreting Services. Designed specifically for Deaf youth ages 11 to 14, the program will launch in August with a week-long immersive at Pine Tree Camp followed by on-going virtual and in-person connections throughout the year.

“Feeling alone is difficult at any age but it can be especially challenging in middle school,” said Dawn Willard-Robinson, Director of Pine Tree Camp. “We know that feeling alone can have a detrimental effect on self-confidence and the ability to envision a fulfilling life path that tends to stick with the individual into adulthood.”

In fact, studies show that a majority of Deaf adults are underemployed or not in the labor force at all.

Pine Tree Camp Dirigo Experience is designed to facilitate long-term peer connections, build self-confidence and develop leadership skills critical skills for youth as they transition to adulthood.

“Pine Tree Camp is an environment that encourages healthy risks and trying new things,” said Dawn. “When you come to Pine Tree Camp, you meet others going through the same thing and you realize that you aren’t alone. Lifelong friendships are quickly forged.”

During their stay at Pine Tree Camp, campers will explore ropes courses, kayaking, and outdoor adventures then receive ongoing opportunities to stay connected to their new-found friends both remotely and in-person, year-round.

Pine Tree Camp Dirigo Experience summer session will be held August 24 – 28 at Pine Tree Camp on the shores of North Pond in Rome. The program is open to all who can benefit regardless of their ability to pay tuition, but generous grants available through the Percival P. Baxter Foundation should cover the cost of tuition. Pine Tree Camp’s Open Door policy has been firmly in place since 1945. Space is limited to 30 participants.

Learn more and register today at Special Programs – Pine Tree Society.


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