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February 16, 2011

Making a Difference


February 16, 2011—“With other graduate programs, you study the material, but may not necessarily be immersed in the environment. Here at Clarke, we eat lunch with the children, help them with their homework and get to know them really well. It’s a very warm and homelike environment.”

Olga Corral Carrillo is from a small village in the Galicia region of Spain. Currently, she is living in Northampton and working towards a Masters Degree in Deaf Education through the Smith College/ Clarke Graduate Program in Teacher Education.

Helping children with hearing loss became the focus of Olga’s career when a cousin in Spain was born profoundly deaf. “I had previously studied special education, but with early intervention and new hearing technologies, so much had changed. My family and I had to learn a lot in a very short period of time.” Olga contacted a Spanish organization, CLAVE  (Caring for Hearing Impairment) to learn more about deaf education and early intervention. “I realized immediately that this was what I wanted to do with my life.”

Very few graduate-level programs in Spain are designed specifically for working with children with hearing loss. CLAVE, in partnership with Clarke and Smith College, arranged for Olga to travel to the United States and receive specialized training in deaf education and child development. 

As part of the masters program, Olga is taking courses in language acquisition, the development of auditory/oral skills, audiology and language instruction and curriculum. Because the program is based on the Northampton campus of Clarke, Olga has the benefit of studying alongside deaf students and experienced teachers of the deaf.

“Clarke’s program is internationally recognized. I’m taking classes, learning from teachers who have years of experience, and working with children all at the same time.” As part of the program, Olga will complete classroom rotations with each age group and observe speech therapy sessions. When she graduates, Olga plans to return to Spain and work in CLAVE’s early intervention program. “I look forward to helping families of infants with hearing loss understand its effect on their child’s development.”

“Olga is dedicated and focused on making a big impact in the world,” says Dan Salvucci, interim director of the Smith College/Clarke program. “Olga and her fellow students bring new enthusiasm and curiosity to the field.”

Olga’s drive to help others has taken her far from her Spanish village. While earning her undergraduate degrees in Special Education and Pedagogy at Granada University, Olga volunteered with several international organizations. In England, she tutored Spanish schoolchildren; in Ireland she interned with a national wheelchair accessibility organization; and in New York City, she interned at the Metropolitan Museum of Art working with visitors with disabilities.

“They have all been incredible experiences. I’ve always wanted to get out into the world and make a difference.” By all accounts, she already has.