As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we are sitting down with some of the people who have helped shape Emerge into what it is today. Through their stories, we are able to see the hard work and dedication that continues to surround the Emerge community.
In this brief interview, JoAnn Monjure shares her story on the beginning of Deaf Start at Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in the fall of 1990 and some of her most cherished memories. Deaf Start was a pilot program created for deaf toddlers age 3 and under. The program involved staff members, as well as the East Baton Rouge school system and the Louisiana School for the Deaf.
Emerge: How did you first get involved with BRSHF? What was the organization like then?
JoAnn: I interviewed with John Bowman who was the director of the organization at the time and discussed plans for Deaf Start with audiologist, Kathy Messina. I quickly joined the team as a part-time staff member creating daily lesson plans for June DeLaune and Chantelle Borne to implement with the children in our pilot program. DeLaune and Borne were deaf adult “language facilitators” that worked hand-in-hand with the children. The program took place every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
In addition to Deaf Start, I provided sign language classes to the parents as a way for them to communicate with their children. These classes were either in person or personal videos I would provide. As I quickly noticed how useful this was, I volunteered to teach beginner sign language to anyone who was interested. This took place once a week and was free to the public.
I also served on the board in the late ’90s until 2000.
Emerge: What do you see as your biggest accomplishment during your time at BRSHF?
JoAnn: My entire time spent at BRSHF feels like such an accomplishment. However, something I will always be proud of is getting the children off to a good start through our Deaf Start program. Teaching skills to their parents and providing a total communication approach was rewarding in every way.
Emerge: Please share one memory of a funny or sweet moment you encountered at BRSHF.
JoAnn: A memory I will never forget is when a young, non-verbal boy I worked with finally signed “I love you” to his mother. To see the pure joy she felt was such a touching moment that remains in my heart. Many of these moments took place due to the hard work and dedication of the staff that never gave up on the children in our care.
Emerge: This year, Emerge celebrates 60 years of service to the community. What thoughts and emotions come to mind when you think of that?
JoAnn: I feel so very proud, as it warms my heart to see this amazing organization still thriving 60 years later. I know John Bowman would be feeling the same way – proud and honored to be a part of the BRSHF/Emerge history. There is so much gratitude that I feel when I think about my time there.