MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was a time of celebration at the Memphis Office of Youth Services as authors showcased their latest work.
Some were shared through auditory devices, and others through American Sign Language.
“Even though she’s deaf, she’s not the same as every other deaf person,” said Kera Jenious, mother of 14-year-old Kourtlyn Williams.
Williams is very shy but through the “I Am Included” program, Jenious says she’s learned to open up.
“Sometimes I think people see disabled or ‘exceptional’ and they want to put them in a separate category. [I think] we are all in the same human category and want to be accepted and appreciated for who we are,” said Jenious.
The “I Am Included” program is all about creating a safe space for Memphis youth with special needs.
“Whether it’s learning ASL from being deaf or using an auditory machine, they can’t verbally speak but this book allows them to express their feelings and emotions,” said Coordinator, Lametria Gillespie.
Gillespie worked throughout the summer to make sure these authors got to share their special stories, in their own special way.
“Each week we had a deadline. We had a goal to think about what they are going to write about,” said Gillespie.
That wasn’t always easy.
“We don’t do a whole lot of writing so that was difficult but the easy part was storytelling,” said Jenious. “I tried not to cry. I am very proud of what she accomplished at 14.”
The titles of the five books are, ‘I’m Deaf, Not Dumb,’ ‘My View,’ ‘Overcoming Obstacles,’ ‘Meeting M.E.,’ and ‘My Way.’
“It means they are seen and they are heard and have a voice wherever they go,” said Jenious.