Some would argue that Mr. Smith doesn’t get to Washington much anymore, but at Florida’s Capitol his kids are always welcome. Two children’s groups are showing all Floridians just how accessible the state capital can be.
Students from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind put on quite a show Thursday at the state Capitol’s courtyard. The dance troupe showcased the achievements that are possible for deaf and blind kids by performing their 30-song show for legislators and citizens alike. The troupe’s director, Lia Ferrante, said there are special challenges for deaf students learning dance numbers.
“I definitely teach them to counts, every song they learn they learn to eight-counts. I sometimes queue them in front of them but there are some hard of hearing kids that can hear the beat well enough to follow along to their own counts. There’s various ways and various skills and each kid kind of finds their own niche in the group,” Ferrante said.
The school is Florida’s only standalone institution for the deaf and blind and was started in 1885. It has since grown to include more than 600 students on campus and more than 300 in off campus pilot programs run by the institution. The school’s President Jeanne Prickett hopes the performance raises awareness about the importance of special learning programs for the deaf and blind.
“Well one of the issues for us is helping explain to other educators, regular educators, other special educators and families of deaf children particularly, but blind children as well, that sometimes the child’s interest require a more intensive special program,” Prickett said.
The school’s dance troupe didn’t perform only for legislators. Another visiting youth organization was also looking on. Kids came to Tallahassee from around the state to show their support for their local and state 4-H programs. Coordinator Shaumond Scott mentioned that there were hundreds of kids and parents that made the trip.
“You know we really tried to align ourselves with the 500th anniversary of Florida, and attempted to bring five hundred youth here to Tallahassee, we superseded that goal, absolutely we have more than 500 youth here present,” Scott said.
The 4-H program started as a mostly rural group, focused on farming and agriculture issues. But Scott pointed out that the group has become so much more than that.
“We’re deeply rooted in agriculture, absolutely. We’re a part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Services at the University of Florida. We also offer a wide variety of programming. For example we focus on our citizenship and our leadership; we have projects and programs dedicated specifically around that, Healthy lifestyles and projects and programs specifically around that,” Scott said.
Both groups made their way to Tallahassee to raise awareness about different issues. But, their one connecting characteristic was the emphasis on the development of young people. Their presence Thursday showed us you don’t need a suit and tie to visit Florida’s Capitol.