MARCH 2-5, 2021

(Virtually the same conference, without elevators, airplane tickets, or hotel room keys)


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Mandy Jay

It is an honor to nominate Mandy Jay for the 2021 Family Leadership in EHDI Programs Award. Mandy is the parent of two daughters who are deaf and her leadership in Arkansas has and will continue to impact generations of children with hearing loss and their families. Her long standing desire to support all Arkansas families of children who are deaf/hard of hearing began in 2008 when she worked with a small group of parents and professionals to raise funds and to form a state chapter of Hands & Voices. From 2008 until 2013, she served as the Chapter Coordinator and worked closely with the Infant Hearing Program at the Arkansas Department of Health to connect with and to provide support to families of children who are deaf/hard of hearing. In her leadership role with Arkansas Hands & Voices (AR H&V), Mandy organized annual meetings with educational sessions for parents and activities for children. She planned family events such as the Back to School Bash and Candy Cane Christmas that provided an opportunity for families to network with each other while children enjoyed activities. During this time, Mandy worked with state agencies, professionals and others to advocate for children who are deaf/hard of hearing and to promote the importance of family to family support and the Guide By Your Side program. In 2016, in collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health Infant Hearing Program, AR H&V, under Mandy's fearless leadership, was approved to offer the Guide By Your Side (GBYS) program. Mandy has served as the Coordinator and now Co-Coordinator of this program. Mandy works closely with the EHDI staff to ensure that families of newly diagnosed children are contacted by a trained Parent Guide, have the opportunity to network with other families at live and virtual family events, and receive resources to assist them in supporting their children. In 2019, the GBYS program added Deaf and Hard of Hearing Guides to provide additional support for families. The effort to recruit guides that were not only culturally diverse, but also who spanned the often rural state of Arkansas was a daunting task. Mandy led the charge for recruitment and successfully recruited guides to provide support all across Arkansas. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, AR H&V and the GBYS program were at a standstill in terms of finding ways to connect with families. It was at this time that Mandy's creative thinking and quick problem solving lead to a series of weekly virtual events for families called "Tuesdays Together". These events were informative, supportive, and accessible to all families who joined. Without question, the support services in Arkansas would not be what they are today if it were not for the efforts of Mandy Jay and her collaboration with the EHDI program in our state. She is a compassionate leader with a can-do spirit. Please provide Mandy your strongest consideration for this award.