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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW: Dr. Stephanie Logan -- a deaf defying life

Dr. Stephanie Logan

Dr. Stephanie Logan is Missouri’s only deaf psychologist.

And that’s only part of her journey.

She's a mother, an executive director of a non-profit agency, a teacher and a member of the deaf community.

Logan lost her hearing at 23 after falling ill to spinal meningitis.

She was attending the University of Georgia and had about a year and a half left to graduate.

“I have a total hearing loss in both ears so I had no idea what I was going to do,” she said. “I was clueless.”

Logan said the state of Georgia has extremely helpful vocational rehabilitation services and was connected immediately to resources such as counseling and speech therapy.

“Understand, all of this is being explained to me in handwriting because that’s how I communicate,” she said.

But after speaking for 23 years, Logan had to learn a new way to communicate.

The Georgia Vocational Rehabilitations Agency flew her out to Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., a federally funded university for the deaf and hard of hearing.

“I took classes in American Sign Language because UGA said ‘when you come back, you’re going to have an interpreter,” Logan explained.

She returned to school in the fall after a short time at Gallaudet University. She was still recovering from her spinal meningitis, learned some sign language, received an interpreter and continued adjusting to her new lifestyle.

“Learning this new language and experiencing my life in a totally new way with this disability,” she said, “it was very, very difficult. I was very depressed.”

She said she got through this transitional period through the use of her interpreters and socializing in the Deaf community. Logan said this helped her learn more sign language, and the more she used sign language the happier she felt.

“The more I felt back to the center of who I am.”

Adjusting to her new way of life, Logan took a job post-graduation helping students like her at the university. There she learned how to write grants and develop programs and services for students with disabilities.

“After a few years I really wanted to move to Alaska,” she said.

And she found a job in Fairbanks.

“At the same time I applied for the executive director position-- which I totally didn’t know what that meant-- for a nonprofit agency service in the state of Missouri. I didn’t even know where Missouri was.”

Applying for a position while deaf looks differently in the average interview process. For Logan, she had to use a telecommunications device for the deaf.

“I had a TTY interview for the job in both states. I got offered the job in Missouri before I got offered the job in Alaska, so I took the job in Missouri.”

A NEW BEGINNING

She was 26 at the time, married and had two children only a few months old. Moving to Missouri wasn’t easy for Logan. She was uprooting her life.

And before life began in Missouri, all of her belongings caught fire.

A moving company loaded all of her items from her Georgia home, everything was on the moving truck except a week’s worth of clothing.

The truck caught fire with everything in it.

“We lost everything,” she said, “Coming out to Missouri we had nothing.”

“At that moment I thought I had made the wrong decision.”

But she still made the trek to the Show-Me State.

“And then I had house that was empty, an office with nothing in it and I was the first employee. So I had to build the agency from scratch and I had to build my house from scratch.”

It was a new beginning for Logan.

“That was a defining moment for me, thinking how I made a major, major mistake.”

A MISTAKE OF A LIFETIME

After the fire and moving her family to Missouri, Logan focused on her work.

She found luck in obtaining grants and funding. She was building Missouri’s first non-profit agency serving the deaf community.

Logan has been the executive director for DeafLEAD since it’s conception. During the past 23 years, she helped create Missouri’s crisis hotline, various agencies and programs for the people of the Show-Me State.

Her focus is to assist the deaf community in mid-Missouri. Yet her services have reached far beyond.

“Most people have no idea that the Missouri Crisis Line is run by a deaf agency,” she said. “And I think that’s awesome. It is an opportunity for deaf individuals to do something for the hearing community.”

The crisis hotline is a resource for victims or people who need support can call. A crisis manager then refers the caller to resources and support in their area.

Over the years, DeafLEAD services have come to include counseling, advocacy, crisis intervention services among a myriad of services provided for the deaf community and hearing individuals.

Logan adds hearing individuals can come to DeafLEAD for services or caring individuals with deaf family members.

She recognizes the resource has come a long way.

“It all started as a three-week summer camp program,” she said.

Initially, the beginnings of DeafLEAD was a summer camp that was being run for deaf teens out of the Department of Mental Health. The government wanted a non-profit agency to be running it.

“The question became what non-profit could take over this camp. There were no deaf services in the state of Missouri or non-profit agency whose sole purpose was to provide resources to the deaf community,” Logan explained.

Nobody wanted to take on the camp. In response, the Department of Mental Health put together a three-year grant, put together the first year board of directors, with hearing and non-hearing individuals, and did a national search for an executive director.

That's when they hired Logan.

“I was just incredibly unqualified,” she joked.

At 26 years old, Logan had to build an agency from the ground up in a place she’s never lived.

“When I moved to Missouri I asked my Board of Directors ‘what do you want me to do, what are you wanting this organization to do?'”

She said the board was wanted to fill the gaps in the deaf services in the community.

“So I went around the state to meet with deaf individuals and ask them what are some resources they really needed.”

And over and over again she heard the same answers: mental health services, crisis intervention services, suicide, domestic violence. Logan identified these were the big issues within the deaf community.

She set out to find funding, develop programs and focus on actually providing services for them.

“There are victim services all around the state like women shelters, shelters and victim service agencies,” she explained. “So we established the first, very first, statewide victim service agency for deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deaf-blind.”

It was a 24-hour crisis line that utilized TTY.

“‘Cause back then five years ago a TTY was how deaf individuals communicated," she said. “It was not an efficient form of communication. A much smaller percentage of the population utilizes TTY.”

The crisis line evolved into a hotline. Logan recognized finding volunteers that would work the hotline 24/7 would be difficult.

“And I wanted deaf individuals to do it,” she said, “I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it with just deaf individuals but it was difficult to find hearing individuals to train to come in and to work for a deaf agency so I had to find buy-in.”

She said at the time the agency had a lot of hearing people come searching for resources, including those having deaf children or deaf family members who were needing help.

Logan recalled hearing professionals working with deaf individuals and they needed support.

“So I spoke to some professionals, got some support, and they said ‘why don’t you start a crisis line for the mid-Missouri area and call it the Mid-Missouri Crisis Hotline?’ And there was no mid-Missouri crisis line of anything like that at that time.”

The hotline was soon established and changed over time. The Missouri Crisis Line is for hearing individuals and Deaf Line Missouri serves deaf individuals. Volunteers work both, deaf volunteers just don’t answer crisis line calls.

“It has been a fantastic service for the deaf community and the hearing community,” Logan said.

Over the years DeafLEAD services have come to include counseling, advocacy, crisis intervention services and other resources for hearing individuals as well-- many of these services developed by Logan.

“Hearing individuals can come here for services or caring individuals with deaf family members,” she said.

BECOMING EDUCATED TO EDUCATE

When Logan started at DeafLEAD she only had her bachelor’s degree in psychology, a degree she started as a hearing individual and finished as a deaf person.

While in Missouri, she juggled her role as executive director at DeafLEAD while obtaining her Master’s in Business Administration at William Woods University.

But Logan longed to educate.

Shortly after arriving to Missouri she was contacted by the local Catholic church in Jefferson City.

“There were parishiners, older women, who wanted to learn American Sign Language and reached out to me,” she said.

The women wanted to know if Logan could point them to classes or even teach them herself.

“I was just newly deaf,” she said, “I was learning the language myself.”

“But they were very persuasive.”

So she decided to teach.

“Up to that point, the language for me had been functional,” she said, “I did not see the beauty in the language, there was no passion.”

She explained that for her, she had no choice but to learn it. It didn’t come easy.

“I felt very angry about that,” she said.

It was through teaching American Sign Language and offering classes to these women that her anger diminished.

“It was through their eyes and their passion, I fell in love with the language,” she said as her eyes watered. “Even today I still get emotional. It was another life changing moment.”

Everything she taught them they were excited over. They were eager to learn, and Logan was eager to teach. This is how she realized she loved teaching, and this event early in her life convinced her to get a minor in teaching.

“They really enjoyed it,” she said about the women. “They learned a lot and I was learning a lot as well.”

Logan offered another community class at the agency to provide others the opportunity to learn American Sign Language.

“And I had a room full of people,” she recalled.

The community program has grown to extend from six weeks to eight, offering different levels and times. She teaches them five times a year. Logan has been offering these classes for 23 years, teaching since she first got to Missouri.

“I have people who come for years and it’s like book club for them,” she joked. “It’s just what they do on Thursday nights.”

She said it’s been a blessing for her family because it’s been a way for her to earn additional income.

“You know, I’m a non-profit director I’m not rolling in money,” she joked. “But I really love my job.”

She loved her job enough to pursue another degree: her PhD in Psychology.

She credits an individual in her life for nudging her in the right direction. She saw value in the degree, she knew it would help the agency if she were Dr. Logan.

Logan applied to the University of Missouri and was accepted and finished the doctoral psychology program. To finish her minor in college teaching though she had to teach a class.

“I went to my adviser and said I’d really like to teach something I knew about,” she said.

Together she and her adviser came up with a course that involved sign language and working with deaf individuals. At first, she only had a few students -- about 13.

“The very next semester it filled up in less than 24 hours,” she said. She remembers having a waiting list of about 100 students.

“And I still do.”

She had doubled the size of her classes to the point they are now held in lecture halls.

“Language classes should never be that big,” she said. “But we make it work.”

Logan is extremely humble. She is grateful for the success of her classes and the resources provided to her and the opportunity to teach.

She teaches 8 a.m. classes to accommodate for her schedule. She said with DeafLEAD’s 24-hour services she is afforded some flexibility to both teach and run the agency.

“So I’m here on the weekend and in the evenings,” she said.

“I am the executive director of DeafLEAD, first and foremost, but my board has been extremely supportive of me.”

She teaches American Sign Language levels 1,2 and 3 at the University of Missouri and has been doing so for 16 years.

“While I had been teaching there our state was reviewing whether or not ASL would be considered a second language for post-secondary students,” she said.

On top of her responsibilities, she had made time to go to the Capitol and voice her opinion on the matter.

“I went and spoke in support of that,” she said.

The legislation passed so students at Mizzou are able to take American Sign Language for their foreign language credit.

“I am so passionate about teaching."

“I love being a psychologist, I love counseling, I love being an advocate,” she said. “I literally get to wake up every day and live my passion. I am so unbelievably blessed beyond belief.”

MORE THAN TEACHER

Logan juggles a lot of responsibilities. She teaches college courses, community classes and runs an entire non-profit agency.

Logan is also a mom.

“My decompressing is being a mom,” she said.

“While it can be stressful and difficult and they can make choices I don’t always agree with,” she said, “They give me life.”

Logan has a 24-year-old daughter, a 23-year-old daughter, a 17-year-old daughter, a 16-year-old son and a 15-year-old son.

She said when she’s feeling frustrated or upset about a decision a client made or work at the agency gets stressful, she gets to go home to her family and experience life with them as well, it brings her another sense of happiness.

She speaks about her children with love, including her 2-year-old grandson. One daughter is handling motherhood, another daughter preparing to swim in West Virginia for college, her son’s passion for skateboarding and the unfortunate occurrence of his broken leg and her 15-year-old son is excited for his sophomore year in show choir.

They keep her plate full and she loves it. She said one strength is their communication.

“For me, when I lost my hearing, one of the things that was very important to me was to maintain my ability to speak,” she explained.

Many things can impact Logan’s ability to speak well, such as if she’s signing a lot or is sick.

“So as my children were growing up I wanted to continue to speak,” she said, “So when I would go home that’s when I would speak.”

Her children aren’t fluent in sign language, but with their little knowledge and Logan’s ability to read lips they understand one another.

“It works out,” she said about her family. “We work to communicate with one another.”

OBSTACLES TO OPPORTUNITIES

In Logan’s lifetime she became deaf, lost a kidney to cancer, lost a dear friend in a car accident and has had to figure out life all over again.

“People have called me a positive person,” she said, “I have faith.”

Dr. Logan said is a very strong Christian.

“I try to live my life in way that would be pleasing to God,” she said. “Since that fire [before moving to Missouri] I haven’t really sat back and gone ‘wow I’ve made a mistake.”

She said if her life as taught her anything it’s to look at obstacles with a new perspective.

“Stop seeing the things in your life as a problem and start seeing it as an opportunity.”

She said when she did that, it changed her life.

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