CCHAT Highlight: Now and Then 25 Years Later

CCHAT Highlight: Will Andes

In 1996, CCHAT began its mission of helping children with hearing loss learn to listen and talk. With limited resources, a five-person staff and a makeshift campus at an old high school, CCHAT provided essential services to 12 students. Those children have gone on to lead healthy, happy lives, full of successes both in and out of the classroom.

As we reflect on CCHAT’s 25th anniversary, let’s check in with Will Andes, a student from CCHAT’s very first class in 1996.

Getting Started at CCHAT

CCHAT Highlight: Will Andes

Understandably, Will’s memories of the early years at CCHAT are fuzzy, as he was just two years old when he started at the La Sierra campus in 1996. 

“It is a little tricky recapturing the precise memories of CCHAT,” Will recalls. “But I do remember the various good people, moments and feelings!”

Will, who is now 27 years old, remembers forming a bond with his classmates, and even today, he can rattle off the names of his 11 fellow CCHAT students. He also recalls walking down the outdoor hallway of La Sierra and seeing the incomparable Diane Durston, his teacher at CCHAT.

“CCHAT helped me develop my oral communication and hearing skills and taught me how to become an independent student,” Will says. “CCHAT also ensured that my classmates and I were learning the preschool material efficiently and effectively.”

Life After CCHAT

Will, now a bilateral cochlear implant recipient, credits CCHAT and the support of his parents Martha and Steve with preparing him for life in his neighborhood school. 

“The (CCHAT) program helped me achieve my first steps in becoming more mainstreamed in the upcoming K-12 school years,” Will says. 

Will was able to graduate high school and move on to college. He attended the University of Virginia, where he graduated in 2016 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Physics. Incredibly, he attended Virginia at the same time as Mitchell Harry, another student from the 1996 CCHAT class!

CCHAT Highlight: Will Andes

His impressive study work led him to a job with the United States Navy. Today, Will lives in Maryland and serves as a mechanical engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division (NSWCCD). This US Navy research center helps design, build, test and maintain surface ships, submarines and other technologies associated with naval architecture and marine engineering.

Outside of work, Will has a variety of interests.

“I love doing anything outdoors,” he says. “I go hiking, fishing, kayaking, camping, bouldering and snowboarding frequently in the Appalachians within the Mid-Atlantic region. I also enjoy cooking, reading, gardening, and listening to classic rock and heavy metal!”

The Impact of CCHAT

Will is an incredible testament to the power of the CCHAT program. His strong work ethic, combined with unwavering family support and a foundation of education that started at CCHAT 25 years ago, has helped him achieve his dreams socially, educationally and vocationally.

“All I can say is that since day one, CCHAT has always been a loving community of wonderful people who are all committed to ensuring that children who are deaf and hard of hearing have all of the support they need,” Will says. “The fact that the program is celebrating its 25th anniversary means that it is still going strong and consists of a wonderful group of teachers, speech therapists and other staff members who work there today!”

Learn more about life at CCHAT in 1996 by reading our latest blog and stay tuned throughout the upcoming year as we celebrate our 25th anniversary with fun retrospectives on the people that have made CCHAT such a life-changing, successful program!

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