Grants will benefit Western program

MONMOUTH -- Some students in Western Oregon University's bachelor's program in American Sign Language and English Interpreting will have tuition covered by an $800,000 grant.

MONMOUTH -- Some students in Western Oregon University's bachelor's program in American Sign Language and English Interpreting will have tuition covered by an $800,000 grant.

Cheryl Davis of the Regional Resource Center on Deafness at the school said the grant will help 15 students in the undergraduate program pay for 70 to 100 percent of the costs for 18 months.

The grant is provided by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

"Luckily, the majority of the grant goes to supporting students," Davis said.

If students accept the money, they must work for 36 months in the appropriate interpreting field after graduation, or the amount becomes a loan they must pay back.

Davis said she is excited for this opportunity for students as interest in learning American Sign language is growing. More students are entering the college with experience from high school because more schools are offering American Sign Language at a younger age as foreign language credit, Davis said.

Western Oregon has offered ASL training courses since the 1970s and began the degree program in 1993.

Another grant in the same amount from the OSEP was awarded to the Teaching Research Institute to help a national collaborative project.

Western Oregon is a facilitator for a Helen Keller Fellows project through the Institute. Although this grant will not directly help Western Oregon students, as it is not part of the College of Education, it will help the Fellows recruit and train 36 personnel across the country to help teach children with deaf blindness.

John Killoran, the director of the Teaching Research Institute, said about 10,000 children in the country are both deaf and blind, and the grant will make teachers more widely available to help them.

These teacher leaders will mentor the children and try to help them obtain sustained professional development.

According to a release from Western Oregon, the need for instructors is great as less than 6 percent of children with deaf blindness are served by a teacher trained in the field.

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