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Taking the trip of a lifetime

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JHHS senior one of four Americans with hearing loss to take part in travel program

By Becca Owsley

By BECCA OWSLEY

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bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com

ELIZABETHTOWN — Emily Bartlett will embark Friday on a interesting adventure. The John Hardin High School senior is part of a national team of high school students on an educational service adventure to Costa Rica through Global Explorers. This adventure is a bit different for Bartlett, 17, because she has had severe hearing loss since childhood. She is one of only four American students with hearing loss selected to go on the trip. Bartlett, who loves animals, being outdoors, meeting new people and going new places, has never been out of the country but she’s sure, after this experience, she will want to go again. She is not one to let her hearing loss keep her from embarking on new journies. “Sure there are times that I wish I didn’t have a hearing loss, but for the most part it is just a part of who I am,” Bartlett said. “I can choose to worry about it and let it control me or I can accept it and move on — I would rather move on.” “There is too much to see and do to let something like that hold me back,” Bartlett said. Her mom, Anita Dowd, is a board member of a group called Hands and Voices, a national parent support group for families with children with a hearing loss. Through that organization she found out about Global Explorers and learned they wanted, for the first time, to involve deaf and hard-of-hearing kids on one of their trips. Dowd shared the information with her daughter who was instantly ready to go. Global Explores is a nonprofit organization developed by blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer that offers educational immersion experiences to students and emphasizes respect and diversity of the world.  While in Costa Rica the students will be involved in a variety of activities related to the organization’s core academic values — science, culture, leadership and service. Bartlett will study ecotourism, fair trade issues, biodiversity and current issues in conservation while also visiting local communities for service projects. Included in the adventure is zip lining through a cloud forest canopy, hiking in the rainforest, observing sea turtles and river exploration. “I am really looking forward to meeting the other students that will be traveling on this trip,” Bartlett said. “We have had to work together via the Internet for the last couple of months so it will be nice to finally meet them.” The things she is looking forward to most are visiting communities, meeting people and learning about their culture. “I am a little nervous about communication barriers,” Bartlett said. “I am used to dealing with the hearing loss communication barrier but I am not sure of being somewhere where everyone speaks Spanish.” More than that, she is most nervous about bot flies. She will have a sign language interpreter with her which will help on the trip. “The biggest thing will be when we do night activities in the dark — it may make it hard to see the interpreter,” Bartlett said. She is sure there will be situations each day that may cause problems, such when several people are talking at the same time, but she plans to adjust to each situation. “My mom and sister also have a hearing loss,” Bartlett said. “We have used sign language and spoken language at home since I was born so having a hearing loss has never really been that big of a deal.” Dowd is eager for her daughter to experience the trip. “Aside from the normal mom stuff, you know, worrying about plane crashes, crocodiles, exotic diseases, cannibals and bot flies, I am thrilled,” Dowd said. “She is a very outgoing, proactive kid and I know that she will make the absolute most of this trip.” She believes Bartlett will be an ambassador for her deaf and hard of hearing peers when she returns.   Bartlett is excited and honored to be one of the few selected to make the trip. “I believe this will be a life changing experience and I absolutely cannot wait to go,” Bartlett said. Anyone else interested in going on a educational experience with Global Explorers can go to www. globalexplorers.org.   Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.