Perkins International launches online community

Interactive website links hundreds of Educational Leadership Program graduates from around the globe.

The ELP Community will allow Educational Leadership Program participants past, present and future to collaborate across international borders.

Graduates of the Educational Leadership Program (ELP) leave the campus of Perkins School for the Blind every spring asking the same question: How do we keep in touch?

“At the end of the year there’s such a tight bond,” said ELP Director Marianne Riggio. “Our graduates always want to know how they can stay connected.”

ELP graduates now have their answer. On Monday, Perkins International launched an interactive website linking hundreds of special educators from around the world.

The ELP Community will allow ELP participants past, present and future to collaborate across international borders and advance Perkins International’s mission to educate all underserved children and young adults with visual impairment, including those with multiple disabilities and deafblindness.

“This website is an exciting tool connecting committed people with a special skillset,” said Perkins International Executive Director Michael Delaney. “We’re encouraging users to share their successes, challenges and insights, or to simply connect with their colleagues and find or offer support.”

The ELP is Perkins International’s flagship teacher-training program. More than 250 educators from 70 countries have graduated from the ELP since its founding in 1989.

There are already 231 registered users on the ELP Community website – a combination of ELP graduates and Perkins International staff. Users can contribute to group discussions, post professional resources in a digital library and share upcoming events.

A searchable member directory also allows users to identify their global colleagues based on their home countries, professional specialties and other useful criteria.

“This is a great opportunity for us to continue learning from one another,” said Riggio. “The launch of the Community website marks an exciting new digital era for the ELP.”

The website will be managed by Daniela Gissara, an educational specialist at Perkins International and a 2010 graduate of the ELP.

Gissara knows the importance of staying in touch. After graduating from the ELP, she and a Brazilian ELP colleague, Ana Lucia Rago, launched a teacher-training initiative in both Brazil and Gissara’s native Argentina. The trainings required lots of coordination – and countless emails and Skype calls with Perkins International staff and educators from across Latin America.

“It was a great opportunity for us,” said Gissara. “And it was all possible because we stayed connected online.”

Gissara said the ELP Community will streamline that process for ELP graduates, giving them one common platform for collaborating and networking.

“It will be much easier, faster and more meaningful,” said Gissara. “ELP graduates maintain a strong connection to Perkins. This online community will only make it stronger.”

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