Perkins celebrates ELP Class of 2017

This year's graduates will join a vast network of Perkins-trained international educators

An ELP participant hugs a Perkins staff member at graduation

Thi Thu Thanh Pham from Vietnam is one of 11 members of the ELP Class of 2017.

May 25, 2017

Last September, 11 international educators uprooted their lives for a chance to better serve students who are blind or deafblind, including those with multiple disabilities.

They left their homes in countries around the world and moved to Perkins School for the Blind to take part in the Educational Leadership Program (ELP), a prestigious nine-month program that provides advanced training to educators from developing nations.

On Wednesday, nine of those educators celebrated the culmination of their Perkins journeys at an ELP graduation ceremony in Dwight Hall. Two other classmates completed the program in February.

“It is a tremendous sacrifice you have made,” said ELP Director Marianne Riggio. “It’s very difficult being dropped into a new culture, a new language.  You should all be tremendously proud.”

The ELP experience is one of complete immersion – participants spend time in classrooms and dormitories, learning techniques and strategies from Perkins educators and working directly with Perkins students. They also attend lectures on blindness education at local colleges and receive leadership training.

Stalin Regan Devadoss of India, who works at the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities, applied for the program several times before being accepted. During his graduation address, he thanked members of the Perkins community for welcoming him and his fellow graduates into their classrooms and, at times, into their homes.

“The time spent here seemed to pass so quickly,” he said. “We are so thankful to the children for accepting us into their lives, and to the passionate teachers and volunteers.”

Devadoss and the rest of the Class of 2017 will now return to their home countries, where they will join a network of more than 300 ELP graduates working to improve blindness education around the world.

“It’s not just teaching, it’s transformational,” said Perkins Board of Trustees Chair Corinne Basler Grousbeck of the ELP community. “I know you’re going to touch a multitude of lives.”

Before the ceremony, students posed for photos with ELP participants, who have become a familiar fixture in their classrooms. As Riggio and Grousbeck presented each graduate with a diploma, cheers rang out from an enthusiastic audience of students, teachers and staff.

Members of the Class of 2017 will bring their newfound knowledge and skills to children who are blind in 11 countries including India, Tanzania, the Dominican Republic, China, Uganda, Vietnam, Egypt, Bangladesh, Kenya, Turkey and Thailand. Although they’ve worked hard at Perkins for the last nine months, in many ways, their work is just beginning, said Perkins International Director Michael Delaney.

“It’s now your turn to bring about change in your community, change in your country, and change in the world,” he said. “We are counting on you, go and continue to make us proud.”  

What You Can Do

Learn More about the Educational Leadership Program, its history, and the work its alumni are doing to improve blindness education around the world.  

Make a gift to help Perkins International continue training teachers and other blindness professionals from developing nations in our Educational Leadership Program.

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