Name: Blakelyn Larkin
High School: Madison County High School
College (Current or Future): Athens Technical College
Major/Intended Major: Deaf Education
Financial Aid Program: HOPE Grant
On the surface, the early years of Blakelyn Larkin are like anyone else.
“I enjoyed life and loved to be around people,” said Larkin, who was nominated by Athens Technical College (ATC) for the 2020 Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) student of the year. “I was a big tomboy growing up with three brothers too. I had a great childhood.”
But that happy surface was covering a secret that is hard for some to listen to.
“I grew up wearing hearing aids,” said Larkin, “and not knowing any sign language.”
The Hearing Loss Association of America says people with hearing loss wait an average of seven years before seeking help. Larkin waited 20 years before she was introduced to another person with an issue an estimated 1 in 5 teens experience.
“They helped me to learn sign language and help me accept my identity of being a Hard-of-Hearing woman,” said Larkin about discovering her self-described ‘Deaf Culture’. “I think it’s important for deaf children to know their language and their everyday struggles in a Hearing world.”
Since graduating from Madison County High School, Larkin’s dream of becoming a deaf educator has been funded by her taking advantage of three different programs under Georgia’s HOPE Grant while at ATC.
“I enjoy being with kids and watching them grow in knowledge,” said Larkin, who taught a free sign language class and had over 20 ATC students attending her weekly sessions.
President of ATC’s Early Childhood Care Education club, Larkin’s academic growth can be charted by the grant programs. She started with the HOPE Grant and the HOPE Career Grant, but will finish with the Zell Miller Grant, eligible only to those with a minimum 3.5 postsecondary GPA.
“The best thing is that I saved money and I don’t have to be so stressful about getting through college,” said Larkin, who was named ATC’s GOAL student last January. “I plan to graduate in the spring with my associate degree (in Early Childhood Care and Education) and then finish my two years at Piedmont College.
“Once I finish, I will become certified to teach deaf and hard-of-hearing children.”
A dream achieved with minimal college debt, eliminating the fear of future financial concerns brewing under the surface.
Watch Blakelyn's video on correct ways of communicating with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people.