Now is the peak time for Youth Programs with the recently held NAD Leadership Training Conference in Austin plus preparation for the 49th Biennial NAD Conference in New Orleans and the 39th Annual NAD Youth Leadership Camp.


Woooo! I am still digesting the highly successful NAD Leadership Training Conference, held April 3-5, 2008 at the Texas School for the Deaf.

Let me give you a little background. The NAD had a Collegiate NAD (CNAD) program from 2001 to 2005. This ceased because we all realized that leadership conferences focusing on deaf youth in the 18 to 30 age range would be better than those targeted to college students only.

The recent NLTC ’08 was so successful that this will be held annually, with an expanded scope. Future conferences will focus on the leadership development needs of college students, young professionals, and volunteers involved with state associations, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, corporations and other settings. This is indeed the first conference targeted to youth ages 18-30 and this is exactly what we need – youth are the future of the American deaf community!

Back to NLTC ‘08, I felt high energy in the air throughout the weekend. We all came to the conference with different goals. An obvious and common goal was the desire to make a difference in others’ lives. If you think about it, people went to the conference to refine and improve their leadership skills, so they’d have the skills to help others. In other words, the conference was full of passionate people! With 130 people in attendance, the conference got off to a wonderful start!

Most of the leadership training workshops included discussion on current trends and future implications. My workshop was on attitude as being the key to success. The current young generation has different attitudes than my and my parents’ generations. I focused primarily on ways to maintain positive attitude throughout all types of situations and how this is tied to success. Attitude is cited as one of the common concerns shared by many deaf youth. As you may have noticed, apathy has been increasing the past decade. It is important that we, together, find ways for deaf youth to become more involved with their communities at all levels, including the NAD, to enhance their personal and professional growth as leaders.

Overall, NLTC ’08 has paved the way for a bright future ahead!


After few years of searching for the right person to direct the NAD Youth Leadership Camp (YLC) program, we found the right person: Melissa Kononenko. She will graduate this May from Gallaudet University with Master’s degree in Leisure Service Administration. How fitting! She has the required background that will help her succeed as director this summer. She was previously staff, assistant director and interim director for Camp Mark Seven. She went to YLC as a camper during 1997 and is currently interning under my supervision to prepare for this summer’s YLC session. It has been a pleasant and positive experience working with her.

We also hired Jonathan Kessel as YLC assistant director. He worked at YLC the past two summers as staff member, very dedicated and committed to his work. He received one of the best evaluations from the campers. He is ready for new challenges by working with staff members this time around. He was a YLC camper in 2002 and has positive attitude and energy that will spread among all involved at this summer’s session.

Nikki Nowalski will return as YLC business manager for her second summer. She has been coming to NAD every Thursday as a volunteer to help out with various projects. Her commitment and ideas are valuable to NAD and YLC!

YLC positions still open: Curriculum Coordinator, Chef, and Assistant Chef (2). Apply ASAP!

College Bowl

A new concept has been discussed for the last few years and now, it has become a reality!

The NAD College Bowl program is expanding! The three legacy colleges/universities are Gallaudet, NTID, and CSUN. This year, we will have a fourth team. We will announce the new team in a few weeks. Please click the following link to read further about the expansion,

Junior NAD

The next National Junior NAD conference will be hosted by the Texas School for the Deaf in the fall 2009. Interested? Join Junior NAD and start fundraising for this exciting conference!

Please visit for updated information.

Miss Deaf America

We have a wonderful NAD Miss Deaf America committee for this summer’s MDA retreat and finals!

Melissa Draganac-Hawk, Competition Director, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Christine Multra Kraft, Assistant Director, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Contestant Coordinator, Cindy D’Angelo, St. Augustine, Florida
Personal Development Coordinator, Trina Schooley-Fernandez, Rockville, Maryland
Chaperone & Parents Coordinator, Patty Wolfangle, Golden, Colorado
Judge & Donations Coordinator, Ann Billington Cassell, Verona, Wisconsin
Stage Manager, Janna Montagnino, St. Augustine, Florida

We will announce the state winners in June.

Deaf Youth USA

We are proud to support and sponsor the Deaf Youth USA camp gathering to be held at KOA Kamground in New Orleans, Louisiana from July 3 to 7, 2008. This is right before the 2008 NAD conference. Those who are accepted into the DYUSA camp gathering at KOA will receive free basic registration to NAD conference.

Excerpted from

Deaf Youth USA is committed to social justice through the use of media and activism. We envision in giving deaf youth in America the best opportunities BY creating opportunities. The first opportunity? This summer. That’s where DYUSA will host an event at KOA and get a national forum going to feel the pulse of the nation’s deaf youth.

This forum is important – in bringing out questions, discussions, concerns, ideas, and answers.

In order to have a successful forum – with a national-wide voice – the people who come must be from different states, different backgrounds, different ethnic/races, different genders, different orientation. This is America.

More opportunities to come, of course, and our vision will be tightened once deaf youth in America is seen and felt.
(Visit the website to learn more about the event).

Be the Change….

My current work email signature says: Be the change you want to see in the world. – Gandhi

Support NAD Youth Programs by becoming a member and donor, so that we can, together, make real change happen!

Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Youth Programs Coordinator
National Association of the Deaf