Back to School: Clarke School for Hearing and Speech

posted on August 7, 2019

Back to school time can be lots of fun, but it can also be stressful. Not only is it a new routine for the kids, but parents know they’ll have demands on their time—and money. Each year, there are always new back to school outfits to get. Of course, it’s also essential to make sure that the kids get all of the supplies they need. And, inevitably, the school will be sending parents a request for fundraising.

But, as stressful as a new school year can be, there are ways for parents to be more at ease. Let’s take a look at one school where a parent decided to be proactive about fundraising. You’ll learn all about why this kid-friendly fundraiser became a great success story for back to school!

One Parent’s Idea for School Fundraising 

Megan Clementi is a dynamic person who cares about the education of her sons. But, she’s also someone who cares about her community. Megan serves on two Central Florida nonprofit boards. In January 2017, a fellow board member at a nonprofit suggested a shoe drive fundraiser. At the time, the charity needed money to help spread the word about its work. So, they decided on the creative fundraiser and collected nearly 5,000 pounds of shoes. The fundraiser was such a success that they did it again the following year.

Flash forward to 2019, and the organization decided to take a break from doing a third shoe drive fundraiser. However, Megan loved the idea of collecting shoes to raise money. So, she decided to share it with the school her oldest son attended, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech Orlando Preschool Program.

The Impact of An Amazing Organization 

With a 151-year history, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech now operates five campuses along the East Coast. Together, they serve approximately 1200 children and their families annually. Megan and her family prepared to move closer to one of those campuses when Clarke Schools announced the opening of its newest location in Orlando Florida. Megan’s family no longer had to move!

Although the state and county provide funding for the school, the money is not enough to cover the educational costs for each of the students. Nevertheless, the school is a leader in supporting youth who are deaf or hard of hearing. The methodology is auditory oral education versus total communication which uses sign language. In other words, the focus for the students is on listening and spoken language.

And, its impact is impressive. Every day, each student gets 30 minutes of individualized speech with a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) who is a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS). According to AG Bell, only 32 LSLSs are available in Florida. And Clarke Schools Jacksonville and Orlando Programs has 9 of those LSLSs. They work as preschool teachers, administrators or SLPs; assisting students and mentoring staff every day!

This time is significant because this one-on-one is costly, especially for every student. Also, hundreds of its students get support services in mainstream. And, teleservices focus on early intervention. So, it’s an excellent educational school and center for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

A Parents Passion for making an Impact Beyond Her Children 

If you had the opportunity to speak to Megan, you’d quickly learn that she’s passionate about the school and its education. In fact, her family has helped raise more than $16,000 toward school fundraising efforts over the past two years. The reason is simple for Megan’s passion. The school is helping her family, but it goes beyond her family.

Megan explained the communication process for people who are deaf or hard of hearing who wear technology. She said people asked about her son shortly after his surgery, “Why can’t he talk since he has his implant?” But hearing is not so simple.

Although the school teaches its students to listen, the process of it is complicated. First, there is programming of the cochlear implants so they can detect different sounds at different frequencies. A person then has to listen so they can hear those sounds detected. Then, sound is sent up the auditory nerve to the brain. In turn, the brain has to decipher the sounds to interpret what someone is hearing. Once that’s done, a person who is deaf or hard of hearing can begin to   understand what they hear. And finally, once that’s fully mastered, it is then that people with hearing loss can start to express themselves orally. Implanted at age 2, Megan’s son has a “hearing age” of a newborn. So, it was the school’s job to get his hearing age caught up to his biological age.

So many of us are parents, and helping ensure the success of a school, not only for one’s children but also others, is essential.

An Innovative School Fundraising Idea 

Parents like Megan and educators, always want to learn about creative fundraising solutions. And, that’s where a shoe drive fundraiser comes into play in this story. Megan loved the idea of this kind of fundraiser at the organization where she served on the board. So, it was only natural for her to want to bring it to the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech Orlando Preschool Program. In fact, the idea is so popular the Double the Donation created a mini-guide for shoe drive fundraising for schools and clubs.

A Parent-Led Fundraiser for a School She Loves 

Megan appreciated the services being given to her son at this tuition free school and started raising money to help defray the costs at the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. She knew the shoe drive was perfect for two reasons: 1) to raise funds; and, 2) to gain students as most families who have children with hearing loss did not know that Clarke Schools had opened in their community or that it was tuition free! So, she asked people in her son’s class to help her in collecting shoes.

One of the biggest pieces of advice that Megan has for any fundraiser is to figure out your network from the beginning. For instance, Megan won the title of Miss Florida USA 2010, and part of her duties was to travel the state and make appearances. It was during this time that she got to know people. They included fellow title-holders, who cared about making a difference. She also tapped into her network of people on sports teams and in dance/fitness studios including gyms. Megan understood that gyms are a place where people go through athletic shoes quickly as sneakers get worn out fast with training. So, she decided to partner with them, as well as businesses tailored toward families, where like her kids, children are always outgrowing their shoes.

Megan put every ounce of effort into the shoe drive fundraiser, which meant she also traveled from Jacksonville to Miami, collecting shoes. Also, her fundraising coach, put her in touch with folks who had collected bags of shoes, but not enough for a fundraiser. Even a 14-year-old girl in Gainesville decided to help Megan. She single-handedly collected over 300 pairs of shoes! And, finally, she spread the word through Facebook and the Next Door Neighbor app.

We’re Grateful for Incredible and Passionate Partners 

In sum, Megan’s passion is one of the reasons our team gets up each day and comes to work. We have the chance to partner with amazing people, such as Megan, who want to make a difference and help others. We’re so thankful for Megan and everyone who gave shoes to her shoe drive fundraiser. We’re looking forward to working with her again in the future.

And, to the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, we also want to wish you many more years of enormous success.


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