Davana Jackson-Robertson grew up at CEID. Known as “Toukie” when she was a child, Davana started at the Center in 1996 when she was just 16 months old and has stuck around (more or less) ever since.
“CEID was pretty much my second family,” Davana admits.
From her introduction to CEID as a toddler, Davana has since worked as a volunteer, an intern, and now is a full-time member of CEID’s staff as a Teacher’s Aide.
Davana’s personal experience helps her make a special connection with CEID’s current students and their parents. The preschoolers can see that Davana understands how to navigate the world through firsthand knowledge of some of the challenges that can come with being Deaf or Hard of Hearing. This connection shows Davana that at CEID, everyone is treated the same.
“They treat me the same as every other person. And that’s all I want, to be treated equally as all of our kids should be treated.”
CEID co-founder Jill Ellis remembers Davana from her early days at the Center. Ellis notes that while Davana was a preschooler nearly two decades ago, her experience likely wasn’t too different from the exemplary care that CEID students get today.
“Davana’s experience at CEID in the 1990’s was quite similar to that of the students enjoying their mornings in our creative classrooms today. Her teachers were extremely talented and committed,” said Ellis.
However, while CEID staff knew how vital early education was to children in the 1990s, education professionals did not have the research we have today. Ellis points out that “We now have proof that early intervention unequivocally substantiates how important a child’s quality learning environment is to his or her overall brain development and social development during the first four years of life.”
CEID is such an integral part of Davana’s story that she struggles to imagine what her life might look like without the Center.
“I would be scared to know what my life would be like without CEID because it’s my safety net,” said Davana.
Davana’s mother, Chidori, agrees, noting her disappointment in how unhelpful the medical community at large was in treating a child who was D/HH. In contrast, the staff at CEID saw Davana as an individual, worthy of the best care possible, not just another statistic.
“CEID provided a holistic approach to our family as a unit, targeting each one of our family members where they were and providing community support, and more importantly, smiles and understanding every morning we came through the door,” said Chidori.
For all that CEID has given to Davana, the popular Teacher’s Aide has given just as much back by being a positive influence for students, a dedicated colleague to co-workers, and a steady presence for parents new to understanding raising a child who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
“I find myself sharing the same pride in her accomplishments as I do with my own children,” said Ellis. “She is poised, confident, and truly has a unique ability to appreciate every child and parent and help them through this important journey,” said Ellis, adding “and she still allows me to call her Toukie!”
Now “Sheltering in Place” due to COVID-19, Davana’s day-to-day life has changed dramatically but her commitment to CEID’s students remains as strong as ever. “I have been working from home, providing families with projects to do with their child(ren) both documented and videoed,” Davana wrote from her home in Berkeley where she is sheltering with her family.
In addition to the enacting a distance learning curriculum, Davana explained, “I have Facetimed a few students just to let them know their teachers are still here and we miss them terribly.”
Even in trying times, or maybe especially during these circumstances, Davana finds comfort in her extended CEID family, sharing, “another reason I love CEID [is that] despite surprising hardship on everyone we are able to support each other at this critical time.”
CEID 90's Kids: Nia, Jimmy, Daniel, Madi, Toukie, and Rafa
CEID hit its stride in the 1990s – a decade that saw the country, and the disability rights movement, reach new heights.
In pop culture, MTV reigned supreme while Titanic became the highest-grossing movie of all time. In sports, Michael Jordan redefined excellence as he led the Chicago Bulls to two separate NBA Championship three-peats. In music, the success, and early demise, of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur rocketed hip-hop into the mainstream. Apocalyptic fears of Y2K dominated public conversation but ultimately would not come to pass.
The 1990s proved to be a pivotal decade as things that are ubiquitous in today’s everyday life – cell phones, the 24-hour news cycle, Google – began to take hold.
Breakthroughs for the rights of people with disabilities came with the passage of the American with Disabilities Act in 1990. The ADA is a landmark piece of legislation that banned discrimination of people with disabilities in employment, transportation, telecommunication, and access to public services.
Did you know? The first CEID Walk-A-Thon was initiated in 2003 by a group of CEID parents who were runners. Having joined in many charity races in San Francisco, this group of parents wanted to run to raise money for CEID and initiated the inaugural CEID Walk-A-Thon. Originally the Walk-A-Thon was held in Moraga, and later moved to Oakland. For Spring 2020, our walk is moving once again since it will be “Virtual” with participants encouraged to proudly “Walk Where You Are!”
CEID’s Walk-A-Thon draws 250-300 alumni, parents & families, staff, volunteers, elected officials, and other community members to come together and raise awareness of CEID. We are proud to partner with Prospect Sierra Elementary School, whose third grade students create designs for our Walk-A-Thon T-shirt. Each year CEID staff pick a design for the front of the commemorative t-shirt for Walk participants.
The Walk-A-Thon has also blossomed to include important sponsorships from local businesses. This year’s generous sponsors include Orrick, Compass Realty/Shannon Mitchell, The Carlisle Family, Enuma ToDo Math, Grubb Co., LJ Kruse Company, Kiwi Pediatrics, MED-EL Corporation, Meyer Sound, Oticon Medical, Ricky Roo & Friends, San Rafael Joe's, Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, and Weatherford BMW. We are grateful for these businesses that value supporting the community.
From its small grassroots beginnings to becoming CEID’s primary community fundraiser of the year, the Walk-A-Thon has and will always be reliant on the efforts & generosity of families and community members like YOU! We look forward to celebrating 40 years of CEID as we come together virtually for CEID’s Walk-A-Thon on April 25th, 2020.