ROSEVILLE, Minn. - Chris Schuette is determined to give his two-and-a-half year old daughter an independent life. Just 48 hours after Isla was born Chris and his wife were told their newborn was severely deaf.
"It was devastating because we didn't know if she would ever hear us say 'I love you,'" Chris said.
Isla received two cochlear implants when she turned one. She cried the first time she heard sound. Today, she's learning how to make sound with the help of teachers at Northern Voices.
The non-profit school has severed hundreds of deaf and hard of hearing children for the last 15 years. Now the school that has helped so many is in need of its own.
In the early years of the school it was fully funded by school districts, according to Erin Loavenbruck, executive director. But as the economy went down so did funding. Now, the school is struggling to stay in the black.
The classes aren't cheap. It costs $29,000 per student for one year. There is tuition and fundraising to help cover expenses but that hasn't been enough. Loavenbruck is fighting to keep money coming in so the school can keep operating.
"Adding a program like Northern Voices that teaches deaf and hard of hearing children how to talk, how to listen and established a rock solid foundation for them to become independent learners through their entire education, you can't find a better return on investment than that," she said.
It's an investment Isla's dad believes was worth it.
"Her first word was mama. I didn't take it personally. I was glad to hear her say anything," he said.
Chris hopes other parents can feel that same joy. But if the program dissolves he worries his wish may too.
Northern Voices will hold their annual Walk for Talk 5K May 5 to help raise money for the school.
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