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By Bonnie O'Leary  6/28/11 

It was a pleasure to stop by the Peer Mentoring Program exhibit and chat with Matt Bakke and Kaitie DeFonzo.  Dr. Bakke helped develop the program which started in 2005, and I was fortunate to be in the first group of students who were certified in June of 2007.  Kaitie is helping to teach the program while studying towards her Au.D.

The Peer Mentor program is training its fifth group of students, and is now recruiting twelve new students for the 2013 class.    A peer mentor is “an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing and trained to work with other individuals with hearing loss in need of support, information, teaching, and/or advocacy, in order to live their life with hearing loss as seamlessly as possible.” 

Students who are accepted complete a 2-year distance-learning certification program and will be trained in 1) information-sharing, 2) provision of support, empathy, and validation, 3) identification of consumer needs, 4) problem-solving, 5) establishment of goals and objectives for improved quality of life and 6) needs assessment for the applicability of assistive hearing technology. 

Program graduates receive a Peer Mentoring Certificate from Gallaudet University under the College of Professional Studies and Outreach.

Costs and curriculum
Currently, students pay $30.00 per semester for 6 semesters, and they must also pay for their travel and lodging.  There are two visits to Gallaudet – the first for new student orientation, and the final visit at the end of the program for the certification itself. 

Students will earn 16 credits over the two years.  After the opening seminar at Gallaudet, which is worth one credit, the semester courses are: Hearing Loss in America: An Overview, Biopsychosocial Aspects of Hearing Loss (this was my favorite!), Practical Audiology: Fundamentals for Consumers, Hearing Assistive Technology, Peer Mentoring for Hearing Loss, and the Final Seminar: Applications of Peer Mentoring.  Dr. Bakke told me they are currently reviewing the curriculum to provide more opportunities for hands on instruction, especially in the audiology segment where they are hoping to have the students actually give each other hearing tests. 

The peer mentor training that I received has been a huge asset to my own outreach work for NVRC.  If you are interested in learning more about Gallaudet’s Peer Mentor Certification Training or would like to apply for the upcoming class, contact Matt Bakke at

Gallaudet Peer Mentoring Certification Program