Sometimes communication can have barriers, but there are languages that can cross it.

A curiosity of the past can create an understanding of the present and future. Joel Yaichuk, a student at Whole Me, Inc., has curiosity that stands out

"Maybe learn about ancient Greece and all you know the mysteries of the past," said Whole Me, Inc. student Joel Yaichuk. “It's amazing how much scientists have discovered. I might even actually be able to find out how the dinosaurs died out."

But his own future was challenged early on. As a newborn, he had minimal hearing loss in one ear.

His mother Rosie remembers by age four that something was wrong.

"I noticed that he wasn't hearing me if he wasn't looking at me," said Joel’s mother Rosie Yaichuk.

Doctors diagnosed Joel with mild to moderate hearing loss which can be progressive, but Joel has been stable the past two years.

Rosie knew she needed help, so she came to Whole Me Inc. for deaf and hard of hearing youth and young adults.  

"They can expect to feel like this is their place, that they have ownership here, that it's a place where they're no barriers to communication," said Whole Me, Inc. Executive Director Chris Kovar.

Whole Me provides transition programs, counseling, outreach and advocacy and sign language classes.

"One of the main things I like about coming here and probably the only thing I like about coming here to be honest is that I get to come here with Mama, but another thing is that every once in a while, they do something that I just love and I'm actually glad to come here," said Joel.

Whole Me began as an afterschool program, but it's now all day. They were recently awarded a $35,000 grant from the Central New York Community Foundation to help more youth.

"About 90-percent of kids that are born deaf are born to hearing parents and 88-percent of those parents can't communicate with their kids,” said Central New York Community Foundation Grants and Programs Director Danielle Gill. “When you think about though isolating and how lonely that can be for a child, we thought this is a great program that not only helps a child, but helps a family."

It’s a program that helps families just like Joel’s.

"I think he's finding his way between the deaf world and the hearing world and sort of where he fits in, but he's made tremendous strides,” said Gill. “His whole family is taking sign language even his grandparent, so they're a model family."

"It gives Joel a chance to be exposed to other kids,” said Rosie. “It gives us a chance to kind of connect with other parents who've been through the same type of thing and for us to just connect with the deaf community here."

"To start off, one of my favorite signs is the 'I love you' sign, I love you.' That's what I always say to Mama. I love you," said Joel.