LOFT began in 1996 at the AG Bell Convention in Snowbird, Utah, and was held every other year in conjunction with our convention until 2008. That year, we began receiving an increased number of inquiries about LOFT, and decided to test the viability of offering the program on an annual basis. In 2009, LOFT was held in Washington, DC and was well-received, with a full complement of 20 teens. In 2010, we were pleasantly surprised when we received 38 applications for 20 available spots – a first since the inception of LOFT. In 2011, we received 42 applications and chose to accept 24 teens for LOFT 2011 in Washington, DC.
The 25% expansion of LOFT in 2011 was a positive step, but we wanted to serve more teens, while preserving the personal aspects and size of the group. In 2012, two sessions of 20 teens each were held.
Since 1996, AG Bell has successfully operated a national four-day Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT) program which provides an active learning and bonding experience for teenagers who are deaf and hard of hearing and use listening and spoken language. The program is designed for participants to
develop skills in individual leadership, teamwork, communication, public speaking, and self-advocacy.
Teens who are deaf and hard of hearing often underestimate or do not recognize their ability to lead others, even when they have the capacity and characteristics to do so. The LOFT program identifies and cultivates those skills among participants by providing a supportive and structured environment in which teens with hearing loss increase their confidence and understanding of their own strengths and abilities through activities designed to challenge them.
LOFT connects teens who are deaf and hard of hearing to each other when they may not know anyone with a similar disability in their immediate community – many of the LOFT participants are the only teen in their school with hearing loss, and for those who are not, they are often the only one who has a cochlear implant and/or uses listening and spoken language.