By Joe Crews
For Hometown News
Dylan Cook got an eye-opening experience this summer when he attended a weeklong career-exploration camp for deaf and hearing-impaired students at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y.
Dylan, who recently marked his 18th birthday, was one of more than 200 high school-aged attendees at Explore Your Future, a career exploration camp at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf on the RIT campus in Rochester. Campers the last week of July got a taste of possible careers in computer art design, lab science technology, business, computing, engineering and, for the first time this summer, health care.
Dylan has just started his senior year at Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine. When he's not at school, he lives with his parents, John and Glenda Cook in Ormond Beach. He also has an older brother, 29-year-old J.R. Cook, who is married and lives in Houston, Texas.
The Ormond Beach teen said in an e-mail that the camp, while fun, had a serious mission.
"The entire program is basically about reviewing your strengths and weaknesses and guiding you in a direction so you are successful," he wrote.
Dylan said he really liked the camp's exploration labs.
"The investigative computer lab was awesome. It was like a robotic class with Legos," he wrote. "The after-class activities were pretty awesome, also. We did everything from bowling to ice skating, and a theme park. The program is very organized and informative. I met students from all over the country."
There wasn't much he didn't like about the camp, although he confessed, "some of the lectures were a little long."
Dylan earned a scholarship to go to the Rochester Institute camp.
"I had to write a paper about what I wanted to do in the future and what my goals were. Your grades and your ACT scores had to be at a certain level to apply also," he said in his e-mail.
For several years, Dylan has wanted to design video games, his mother said in a separate telephone interview. And the teenager said that's still his goal - maybe.
"I pretty much still am focused on game design. However, they have a career exploration program I'm looking at also," he wrote.
The youngster's hearing was damaged by a high fever when he contracted roseola at about three years of age, Ms. Cook said. The impairment wasn't diagnosed for several years, and by then the boy's hearing was severely limited in one ear and almost completely gone in the other.
Dylan attended public schools in Ormond Beach until he got to middle school, which was not as good a fit for his outgoing personality. So his parents enrolled him in Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
At first, they took him back and forth every day, but eventually Dylan asked to be a boarder at the school, Ms. Cook said.
"He made honors dorm in record time," said the proud mother, who is an executive at a Holly Hill company.
While Dylan's post-high school goals are still not finalized, he would highly recommend the Rochester Institute's program to other hearing-impaired teens.
"Absolutely I would! It was the most informative program I have found out there," he said.
Rochester Institute of Technology offers programs in computing, engineering, imaging technology, sustainability and fine and applied arts, as well as support services for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, said spokesman Greg Livadas. The college has about 17,000 full- and part-time students in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs.
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf is one of nine colleges at Rochester Institute. It was established by Congress in 1965 to provide college opportunities for hearing-impaired individuals who are underemployed in technical fields, Mr. Livadas said. More than 1,350 of a record 1,547 students at the institute are deaf or hard-of-hearing. (The others are hearing students enrolled in interpreting or deaf education programs.)
Explore Your Future is an outreach program offered in the summer for high school juniors and seniors who are expecting to go to college. The goal is to get the students thinking about which careers and majors may suit them. About 80 percent of the EYF participants end up applying to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Mr. Livadas said.
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf also has a Center on Employment, which helps students in finding co-op and permanent jobs upon graduation, he said.
For more information, visit www.rit.edu/NTID.