Fifteen Central Florida middle and high school students with hearing disabilities gained some confidence to succeed in school thanks to a recent weeklong Deaf Leadership Camp sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Independent Living and held at the University of Central Florida.

Led by volunteers who are deaf and fluent in American Sign Language, students took part in team-building activities based on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by author Sean Covey.

Facilitator Malia Johnson, president of the Deaf Talk consulting firm, shared strategies for common challenges, such as addressing classmates’ misconceptions, applying for college, and participating in extracurricular activities. Students also interacted with a panel of successful people who are deaf, including a NASA employee and UCF political science graduate student Jacob Salem.

The camp was also sponsored UCF’s Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute, with support from the 2013 Disney Helping Kids Shine Grant.

“Before this camp, I was not ready to go back to school. I was bored and not able to make friends,” said 13-year-old Dakota Rochette, a 7th-grade student at Greenwood Lakes Middle School. “Now, I am ready for school, hoping to keep getting A’s in my classes, and ready to make friends by being helpful, respecting others, talking, and staying friendly.”