LOFT began at the AG Bell Convention at Snowbird, Utah in 1996 and for the next 12 years was offered every other year in conjunction with the annual convention. As interest and participation increased, we began offering the program every year beginning in 2009. With continued success, we expanded the program further by offering two sessions per year beginning in 2012. The expansion allows us to serve more teens while preserving the personal aspects that benefit small groups. We continue to offer two sessions of 20 participants each at our program each year.
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.