Daily Point of Light # 2905 Mar 24, 2005

Growing up as a young girl, bearing witness to her beloved, deaf older sister’s anguished from being prejudiced against, and excluded by many hearing peers. Julie transformed her grief into a hopeful, life long commitment to help deaf youngsters of all ages become a welcomed, vital part of their larger community.

At age sixteen, as a high school sophomore, the petite, yet powerful activist for inclusion and diversity founded an exceptional community/school based Children’s Theatre Performing Arts group she called Hand-In Hand, exemplifying her life long commitment to connect thousands of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing youth in her community, previously segregated for over eight decades. Selecting multi-cultural children’s scripts, Julie helps bridge the gap between diverse groups of high school teenagers, teaching them to respect and embrace each other’s culture through the simultaneous use of acting, dance, sign, and spoken language when performing together for elementary and middle school audiences.

The American School of the Deaf, the first residential school for Deaf youth in the United States, established in 1921, is located in the center of West Hartford, Connecticut. It’s Deaf and hard of hearing youngsters have been segregated from the surrounding, hearing youth and schools in the community since that time. Julie Miller demonstrates an extraordinary, long standing commitment to break down barriers of prejudice, advocate for diversity, and promote inclusion of deaf youth of all ages into the mainstream of society.

Julie fills many roles, but first and foremost, she has acquired leadership skills that will serve her the rest of her life. A fluent signer and actress herself, she is the founder, director, producer, choreographer, scenic and costume designer and builder, treasurer, and is responsible for funding and maintaining a budget. Julie teaches hearing actors to sign, works with school principles to arrange performances in elementary and middle school, creates and displays advertisements, and handles press engagement, while still maintaining outstanding grades at school. In attempting to solve a community problem of segregation between deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing youngsters, Julie has spent hundreds of volunteer service hours by creating this outstanding program, which involves, as well as benefits youth.

Hand-In-Hand provides a tremendous service by bringing together youth from different backgrounds, as well as parents, teachers, and other adult members of the community as well.

Now in its second year, Hand-In-hand can be replicated elsewhere in the country, and sustained in the future with new teams of directors, actors, and participating schools who can be taught the skills and tools needed to maintain and continue the program in their own unique way.

Last year alone, Hand-In-Hand has performed for well over two thousand youngsters, elementary, middle, high schools and even college age students, as well as scores of teachers and parents in Connecticut schools thus far. Julie was determined to create a unique, pleasurable, long term solution to bridge together diverse communities utilizing her knowledge, compassion and caring for children, as well as her skills in the performing arts, the latter that she has stayed committed to study and practice for well over ten years.