Haley Gartner is not only an alumni of Ohio Valley Voices (OVV), but also a member of one of the program’s founding families. After contracting a severe case of meningitis at five and a half months old, Haley lost her hearing. “My family considered moving to St. Louis so I could attend the Moog Oral School but instead they decided to take on the challenge of establishing a school for the hearing impaired in Cincinnati,” Haley says.
OVV’s three founding families—the Gartners, Murphys, and Burns—first met at a support group for children with hearing loss. Wanting the best for their children, they raised nearly $500,000 for an operating budget to open Ohio Valley Voices. Haley explains:
“Performing administrative tasks such as establishing a non-profit organization, developing a charter that was approved by the State of Ohio Board of Education, and contacting the media to raise awareness of our mission—these are just some of the steps the founding families took to create the school. They had the vision and did the leg work to make OVV a reality, but the passion of Executive Director Maria Sentelik and the staff are what makes the school successful today.”
Haley started at Ohio Valley Voices in the summer of 2000. “Even though we were learning, the teachers always made everything fun,” she says. When she’s feeling nostalgic for her time at OVV, Haley reminisces by looking at photos of field trips and holiday parties. She finished the program in 2003 and continued her academic career, first in the Forest Hills School District and later at Turpin High School.
Upon graduating from Turpin, Haley enrolled in Career X at Scarlet Oaks Vocational School. She currently works at Anthology of Anderson and is grateful to OVV for helping her “develop the language skills needed to communicate with my managers and co-workers.”
To Haley, Ohio Valley Voices is not just a school but “a community where you’re always welcomed home.” She appreciates it so much that she volunteered as an adult for the summer school toddler program. Her advice to those who want to support OVV’s mission is to get involved, just as she did: “Volunteer—it will make you smile.”