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Where are they now? Checking in with our 2023 International Scholars leadership projects

Let's catch up with the Educational Leadership Program (ELP) graduates from 2023 and the status of their final projects!

The 2023 graduates of the Education Leadership Program pose with arms raised in front of the Howe building

Everything — absolutely everything we do — adds to a cause greater than ourselves.”

Josély López, ELP Class of 2023

Every year, Perkins School for the Blind welcomes a new class of International Scholars to the Educational Leadership Program. For 9 months, these international scholars study at Perkins and immerse themselves at every level from teaching to curriculum building to leadership, all so they can develop a final project with the intention to implement once they return home. 

This final project leads to a major presentation near the end of the school year, where the International Scholars not only present their action plan, but receive real-time feedback and questions from potential donors to fund their projects. Around campus, this event is playfully known as Shark Tank. 

Many wonder what happens to these projects after the scholars graduate and return home. The class of 2023 were happy to share their updates, now nearly a year after they completed their proposals. 

The class of 2023 poses with their diplomas in hand.

Creating a Model Preschool Classroom for Children with Deafblindness and Multiple Disabilities

Dimitra Nellopoulou (Greece)

Dimitra took the knowledge she gained at Perkins back to northern Greece, where there were no educational settings specifically designed for people who are deafblind. 

To address this pressing need, Dimitra created a model preschool classroom serving 4 children with multiple disabilities. She implemented classroom adaptations and initiated regular communication with families, while also helping her colleagues learn more about deafblindness. 

Dimitra found that the teaching strategies and materials she used in her classroom have benefited all of the school’s students, not just those who are deafblind. Her school is expecting to welcome new students next year.

Building Teacher Capacity Based on Experiences from Perkins School for the Blind

Srdan Lukic (Serbia)

Srdan has been teaching children with disabilities in Serbia for over twenty years. For his Shark Tank project, Srdan created a 9-month training program for teachers of students with multiple disabilities at his school. Developed in collaboration with Irena Peric, a fellow graduate of the ELP, the training program covers an array of topics, including active learning, adaptive technology, and a child-centered approach to education.

Srdan started his project by purchasing professional literature for school staff, as well as teaching materials and assessment tools. He also bought much-needed classroom items, including children’s furniture, a laptop, a printer, and laminating material. Srdan’s project. 

  • Srdan Lukic

    Special Education Teacher at Milan Petrovic
    Meet Srdan

Every Child Can Learn, Let Me Show You How

Saul Shimon Juarez Santillan (Mexico)

A school principal in Mexico, Saul has been applying what he learned at Perkins to help his students unlock every opportunity. His Shark Tank project focuses on classroom adaptations, the creation of classroom routines, and the importance of total communication. 

Saul has already renovated his classrooms, adding new furniture for students, colorful toys and sensory materials, and air conditioners. His school is also using a new scheduling system for activities in the classroom, which provides a sense of routine and predictability for students. In addition, Saul is offering training to teachers and parents in Mexican Sign Language, crisis prevention, and the use of electronic tablets for alternative communication.

  • Saul Shimon Juarez Santillan

    School Principal
    Meet Saul

Effective Communication: A Key to Better Learning and a Brighter Future

Leory Emiliano (Philippines)

For her Shark Tank project, Leory has been sharing her knowledge with other teachers while working to create a model classroom for students with communication challenges at her elementary school in Quezon City, Philippines. 

So far, she has trained her fellow teachers on total communication, orientation and mobility, and the use of adaptive devices. Leory also conducted a two-day workshop for the parents of children with disabilities. 

While she is currently teaching in a temporary space, renovations are underway to create a permanent classroom for her students.

  • Leory Emiliano

    Teacher at Rosa L. Susano Novaliches Elementary School
    Meet Leory

From Trails to Ties: Building Stronger Families

Mary Grace Torres (Philippines)

Grace’s project is an outdoor camp experience for children with disabilities and their families in the Philippines. The camp’s goals are to strengthen family relationships, foster positive attitudes toward children’s abilities, and encourage parent advocacy. 

In August 2023, Grace held a focus group to gather feedback from parents, which helped her plan the camp’s itinerary. Activities will focus on orientation and mobility, Braille literacy, and community reflection. The camp is scheduled for March 9th and 10th of this year. We wish Grace lots of luck, and look forward to learning more about this wonderful experience for kids and families!

  • Mary Grace Torres

    Parent Leader and Volunteer for PAVIC
    Meet Mary

Path to Excellence

Josély López (Guatemala)

For her Shark Tank project, Josély started a mentorship program in Guatemala, where she trained teachers and therapists who specialize in working with children who are deafblind and have multiple disabilities. 

Josély’s program has reached 3 schools, ultimately supporting 12 therapists, 20 teachers, and at least 180 students. She has been sharing her knowledge of person-centered planning, and today, every student in Josély’s school has an individualized therapeutic plan. She has also joined a strategy and quality team to promote the application of Perkins quality indicators in her school.

Assistive Products: The Key to Access and Inclusion

Pema Choden (Bhutan)

The goal of Pema’s Shark Tank project is to create a collaboration system among teachers, families, government officials, and education professionals to promote the use of assistive products for children with disabilities in Bhutan. 

By assessing the needs of students, creating assistive products, and training teachers on their use, Pema’s project has been able to reach 177 children, as well as 335 teachers and education officials. She has also been working with a parent support group to raise awareness and acceptance of disabilities in Bhutan.

  • Pema Choden

    Deputy Chief Program Officer at the Ministry of Education
    Meet Pema

Transforming the Lives of Children with Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment

Beula Christy (India)

After returning to India, Beula immediately began implementing simple changes to the children’s spaces at her institute, making rooms more conducive to active learning and creating a separate room for assessments. She used her Shark Tank funding to help procure training materials, assessment tools, and items for children and families to use at home. Beula also organized several parent workshops, and has been teaching her colleagues about Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) through online classes.

Inspired and encouraged by her time at Perkins, Beula has gone on to secure additional funding to open two CVI resource centers in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, India. Through these new centers, Beula and her colleagues at the LV Prasad Eye Institute will continue to build local capacity to address CVI.

  • Portrait of Beula, a woman with long black hair, brown skin, and a friendly smile.

    Beula Christy

    Head of Vision Rehabilitation Services at LVPEI
    Meet Beula

Building a world where every child belongs

Perkins is dedicated to building more inclusive spaces, programs, and leaders. The Educational Leadership Program strives to bring Perkins’ expertise with the world in order to build lasting global change for children with disabilities. We believe every child can learn, anywhere, and together with our partners we show the world how. 

Your support ignites real, global change.

Graduates of Perkins’ Educational Leadership Program return home to lead change for children with disabilities. Support our work today to make the world a better place for all children tomorrow.

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