Growing up in Austin, Texas, Calvin Young dreamed of traveling the world — and being deaf wasn’t about to stop him.
While still a teen at the Texas High School for the Deaf, Young started an international studies program, helping to organize class trips to London and Paris. After college, two startup businesses and a breakup with his girlfriend, he decided to pursue his lifelong passion on a full-time basis and booked a flight to Southeast Asia with a friend.
Sixty-three countries later, Young heads up Seek the World, a social media travel channel through which he shares videos, reflections and resources for the adventurous journeys he undertakes. His goal, he says, is to inspire other deaf people to travel solo, and to pursue their own dreams to the fullest.
Young recently shared his groundbreaking experiences with 43 deaf students at Camp Overbrook: In Sign, which took place from June 19 to July 2 at St. Joseph’s University.
Now in its 23rd year, the project was launched by Sister Kathleen Schipani, I.H.M., director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Persons with Disabilities and the Deaf Apostolate.
She clarified that while the lowercase term “deaf” refers to those with hearing loss, the capitalized “Deaf” embraces those who share a broader culture and, according to some estimates, over 200 sign languages used throughout the world.
Despite this array of languages and a rich historical heritage, the Deaf population remains underserved in many areas, something Sister Kathleen set out to change.
“I saw that Deaf kids had no real opportunities for Catholic faith formation in a fun setting,” said Sister Kathleen, who has also developed an app that teaches prayers and religious terms in American Sign Language (ASL).
Open to children of all religions, the camp focuses on Bible stories to encourage faith development. Arts and crafts projects, swimming, field trips, presentations, entertainment and fellowship round out the activities, all of which are conducted in ASL.
While most of this year’s campers were from the five-county Philadelphia area, a few participants traveled from New Jersey and from west of the archdiocese to attend the six-hour sessions.
“We’re really the only day Deaf camp around here,” said Sister Kathleen.
In addition to the camp’s adult staff, some 16 high school and college students assisted with activities, making for a staff to camper ratio of 3 to 8. Such levels are integral to Deaf educational practices, said Sister Kathleen.
“The language is visual,” she said, noting that instructors and students need to remain within each other’s eyesight for in-person communications.
Because of the required staffing, the estimated camp tuition for this year was $800 per child. Parents only paid $85 of that cost, however, thanks to a blend of grants and donations from a number of supporters, including the Maguire Foundation, the Connelly Foundation, the Katie Kirlin Fund and the Child Development Foundation.