Ripples of change: Advocating and innovating with Bobby
To spread knowledge and create better understanding, we need people to advocate for those who are not able to advocate for themselves. One person at EF Education First advocating for the deaf and hard of hearing community is Bobby, Customer Loyalty & Engagement Specialist for EF Go Ahead Tours in Denver, Colorado.
Bobby knows what it is like to live with a disability—he was born deaf. He is one of more than 1.5 billion people with hearing loss— nearly 20% of the global population. At 18 months old, Bobby received a cochlear implant. This electronic device helps provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.
Growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, Bobby attended mainstream schools for most of his life, meaning he was typically the only deaf student in the classroom. "I was the only deaf student at school for nine years of my education, from elementary school through my high school graduation," Bobby recalls, and he is grateful for the way his parents always advocated for him. "My parents were diligent enough to advocate for me and make sure I had my access needs met in school,” Bobby says. “As I got older, I knew I needed to self-advocate, which eventually turned into advocacy for others."
Bobby attended Rochester Institute of Technology and pursued a bachelor's degree in environmental science and a master's degree in public policy. "One of the reasons that I chose RIT is because they have a large deaf and hard of hearing population there. About 10% of students are hard of hearing out of a population of about 18,000," Bobby notes. "After nine years of school with little to no contact with other deaf students, I wanted to reintegrate into the community."
Bobby's advocacy began at RIT, where he pursued student government and advocated for change to university policies and the use of accessible technology. "To me, being an advocate means you are always looking out for excluded people or groups, and you actively do something about it," Bobby says.
After working at RIT during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bobby had his mind set on finding a job at EF, specifically the EF Denver office. "Growing up in Boston, I always saw the pink EF sailboats on the Charles River. I also had the opportunity to travel to Paris and Spain with EF Educational Tours during high school. Since then, I always wanted to work at EF," Bobby reflects. "When I saw Denver was hiring, I applied to a Traveler Support role and started at EF in August of 2021."