CASSTOWN — A Miami East alumna spent much of this past year developing her own non-profit to help out deaf youth.
“The idea kind of started late last spring, with my family throwing around the idea, and then it was really in the summer when my family and I, and our team within Chasing Greatness were like, ‘Let’s do it, let’s try and change the world,’” Jonni Parker said.
Chasing Greatness is a non-profit created by Parker and her family to help create funding opportunities so children under 18 can have easier access to hearing aids. Another part of the non-profit is dedicated to teaching deaf youth life skills that can help them contribute to society and live normal, full lives. The non-profit aims to help develop leadership skills, communication skills, athletic skills, and more through workshops, seminars, and other opportunities.
“Hearing aids are kind of like a luxury affordance for some families, and I wanted to create opportunities where a child needed to receive hearing aids and wanting to receive hearing aids, would have more opportunities to have that ability,” Parker said. “We also want to help build self-esteem and self-confidence to help children grow as an overall person.”
Parker was inspired to create Chasing Greatness because of her own experiences as a legally deaf individual. Born with a hearing deficit in both ears, she has worn hearing aids since she was in kindergarten and has received up to five sets of hearing aids in her lifetime.
“It was a big adjustment, especially when I first got my hearing aids. It’s a big adjustment to explain it to people. I had to become a self-advocate for myself and explaining that, if I did have trouble hearing someone, I had to ask them to speak up or enunciate their words so I could hear,” Parker said.
Because the cost of hearing aids aren’t covered by most insurances, her family had to pay completely out of pocket for Parker to be able to have access to them.
“That was a big financial burden that was placed on my family, that I think I, myself now, would like to try and change that for kids in the future,” Parker said.
Over the last several months, Parker has been working closely with her team to go through the process of creating a non-profit and getting everything in order to execute it. A lot of it has been self-teaching and growing with help from team members along the way. While Parker said there’s still more to learn and figure out, she’s excited with the path that they’re on. At the moment, they’re currently waiting for the 501(c)(3) to be returned, which can take up to nine months. Parker said that they’re still able to accept funds as a non-profit.
“I’m excited to help. The hearing aid portion is definitely our focus in the non-profit, but the life skills, I think, is definitely going to be a fun and exciting to help the youth in order to get prepared for the future,” Parker said.
While Parker is getting everything in order for the non-profit, she continues to chase greatness as a Division 1 collegiate athlete at Penn State University, where she’s currently in her senior year pursuing an elementary and early childhood education degree with minors in special education, human development and family studies and deafness and hearing studies. Her goal is to balance a career in education with Chasing Greatness.
“I hope to come back to the area and get a teaching job. I think that would be a goal, to come back into our community, and definitely coach if an opportunity presented itself, and definitely keep working with the non-profit,” Parker said.
For more information about Chasing Greatness, visit https://www.chasinggreatness9.com/.