Meet the Team
Guide By Your Side program coordinator
Hi! I am the Guide by Your Side Coordinator with Hands & Voices. I definitely would say that my life has not turned out the way I ever dreamed it would. I have two boys, Luke who is 16 years old and Noah who is 13 years old. Luke was diagnosed at the age of 2 ½ with auditory neuropathy. I knew that something was wrong because he was not really talking much. I had his hearing tested several times and he would always pass in the sound booth. After his second set of tubes at the age of 2, the doctor suggested we do an ABR. On that day the doctor told us “Your son is not deaf but he can’t hear”. We thought to ourselves, “What does that mean?” They told us that Luke had auditory neuropathy and that he qualified for a cochlear implant. We went through all types of emotions. How could this be? No one in our family has a hearing loss. But, I told myself it could always be worse! From that point on I did everything that I could to be strong for my family and especially for my son. My husband and I had so many decisions to make: where will he go to school, will he be ready for kindergarten, what type of speech therapy should he attend, sign language, cued speech? The list went on and on.
I forgot to mention… I was also pregnant with Noah at the time. We were told that the cause of Luke’s hearing loss was his prematurity, and that it would be highly unlikely that Noah would also be born with auditory neuropathy. Guess what? They were wrong!!! We went through all the same emotions again, but at least this time we had a little more experience. Since Noah was identified at 3 months of age, he was able to be implanted at 18 months. Luke and Noah have two totally different personalities so the experience has been quite different for both. They are best friends and I am glad that they are able to support each other when sometimes we as their parents don’t understand.
Today they are in mainstream classrooms. Luke is a High School sophomore and Noah is in 7th grade. They both play sports and do Kung Fu. They are fearless! They inspire my husband and me every day. They have inspired me to dream bigger dreams, and for that I am always thankful for the two blessings that God has given me!
Hi! My name is Jada Babcock, and I live in the Lafayette, LA area. I’ve been married for 14 years and have a 7 year old son and a labradoodle named Scout. Our son was born with a rare Chromosome 13q deletion and is profoundly deaf bilaterally.
I work full time in the oil and gas industry as well as part time as a Parent Guide. I love meeting new families and supporting them as they begin their journey. I remember feeling so lost after our son was diagnosed as deaf and wishing that there was someone who understood the emotions and fear that we were experiencing. I am so honored to be a part of the Guide By Your Side program, and hope that I can help alleviate some of the unknowns for families.
Hi, my name is Vanessa Magnon. I am from Lafayette, Louisiana. I am Deaf with moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss. I no longer use hearing aids. I am the only Deaf person in my family. I’ve been married for 20 years to a wonderful husband (hearing), and we have an 18 year-old daughter, who is also hearing. They use American Sign Language to communicate with me.
For the first 6 years of my life, I did not have language. No one knew of my hearing loss. I was placed in a mild moderate class for a year. I was an unhappy child. At the age of 7, my mother took me to an audiology appointment. After they discovered my hearing loss, my life became filled with joy! I felt better understood. As I grew up, I used spoken language and Sign Exact English in the mainstream schools. At the age of 13, I transferred to middle school in an oral program with no interpreters. I did not do well in my classes. Eventually, I enrolled at Louisiana School for the Deaf. My life changed completely! I was exposed to a multitude of new things: ASL, Deaf culture, and Deaf identity.
A few years later, I transferred to Lafayette High School, and I had sign language interpreters! I helped to found the Sign Language Club in 1994. I also participated in many organizations. I played on the volleyball team, was appointed as a Kiwanis Club queen, became president of the Sign Language Club, won 1st place in a t-shirt design for March of Dimes, and enjoyed the Art Club. At church, I was involved in youth group and the "Silent" signing song team.
I graduated from Lafayette High School and earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management at the University of Louisiana. I love working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. During my time working in the Lafayette Parish school system, I assisted with and performed at Expressfest (a talent show for all Deaf/Hard of Hearing performers). In the community, I am a leader of Deaf Ministry in Lafayette, a hostess of Deaf Women's Fellowship, and now work as a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guide for Louisiana Hands & Voices.
I hope to share my experiences with families and to see the success of future Deaf/Hard of Hearing generations.
Hi, my name is Kaye Wallace, I am profoundly deaf. I communicate through ASL, orally or both (total communication). I attended mainstream classes all of my life with sign language interpreters so I could have complete access. In high school, I also began to use notetakers to ensure I didn’t miss anything. This helped me tremendously, as when I watched the interpreter it was difficult to write notes. When I would look down, I missed what the interpreter signed. I did well in high school, graduating from high school in 2014. I attended McNeese State University for three years and my grades were good. I found my passion for working with animals, especially horses. I rodeo and train horses as often as I can. I am currently working as a notetaker at the high school for deaf and hard of hearing students.
As a LA H&V Deaf Guide, I share my personal life experiences of growing up deaf. I am able to share practical input on how I navigate social situations and my use of technology. I hope to create a safe place in which families can ask questions about hearing loss or deafness. I am also a positive role model for children and families for hope and optimism.
Greater New Orleans area | Marbely Barahona
New Orleans | Rana Ottallah
North Louisiana | Penny Hakim
Greater Baton Rouge area | Kristen Williams
Lafayette and Central La | Jada Babcock
Southwest Louisiana | Jill Guidry
LA Hands & Voices, Director
Parent Guide - Southwest Louisiana
Hi! My oldest daughter Kaye was diagnosed with a profound bilateral hearing loss at 2 years. Her loss was progressive; only a mild loss in one ear at birth. I remember clearly the day the audiologist told me she had a profound hearing loss. I felt overwhelmed, afraid and alone. However, I share with you that her hearing loss has not defined or limited her life. She attended mainstream classes in our home school district with support services that enabled her to be successful. We were blessed to have early interventionists and teachers who offered guidance and support during our journey, and I enjoy giving back to our community by offering hope and encouragement to families. I am excited to be a part of the incredible Louisiana Hands & Voices Guide by Your Side program.
I live in southwest Louisiana. I love being part of Hands & Voices and the Guide by Your Side program. My husband is an avid fisherman, and we enjoy camping at Toledo Bend. We live in Sulphur and raise horses, goats and chickens, along with three dogs and a cat. I am a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students, and have taught at the elementary and middle school for 19 years.
I'd love to connect with you, please reach out to me anytime.
Penny is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree at University of Louisiana Monroe. She raised her four children in Monroe, Louisiana. Penny’s oldest child lost his hearing when he was 13 months old to meningitis. He was the youngest to receive a cochlear implant in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1990.
She has served on various state and national boards and committees concerning the deaf and hard of hearing population. Penny has been a Hands & Voices Parent Guide in North Louisiana since 2013. She is passionate about empowering parents to learn more about their children’s unique needs. She firmly believes in Hands and Voices motto, “What Works for your child is what make the choice right.”
My name is Kristen Williams, and I live in Ascension Parish. My husband and I have three children. We learned that our son is severe-to-profoundly deaf shortly after he was born. He has bilateral cochlear implants and is currently in mainstream elementary school. We began receiving early intervention services when he was an infant, but we did not meet other families with children that have hearing loss. I attended an event held by Hands & Voices and learned that there is a community of families that could relate to us and our journey. I am glad to share our experience with families and offer support and encouragement. Please reach out to me anytime!
I am originally from South America and have lived in New Orleans for the past 20 years. I have a wonderful husband, Asahel, and we have six children, two girls and four boys. My oldest son is profoundly deaf and received a cochlear implant at the age of five. He was fully mainstreamed in regular education classes in his home school district school. When Asahel was diagnosed with deafness, there was very little parent-to-parent support in the State of Louisiana. Therefore, when I learned of Louisiana Hands & Voices and its Guide by Your Side program, I knew I wanted to be part of it. It is a pleasure for me to provide support to parents of deaf and hard of hearing children. Sharing with others my experiences and what I have learned along the way may help others. An important lesson learned was to welcome options, changes and setbacks; those are part of the process and help a great deal.
I also work for Louisiana’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program (EHDI) as a Bilingual Parent Consultant; in this role, I help Spanish-speaking families navigate the EHDI process. Often times I feel my job is not a job any more. It is like way to give back to the community for the wonderful opportunity I had to raise my deaf son around such wonderful professionals, parents and family members that gave me such a great support.
Hi! My name is Diane Stewart, I am Deaf, was born to hearing parents and grew up in Texas; I also have a Deaf older brother. I currently live in West Monroe, LA with my husband. We have been here almost 10 years and have two beautiful daughters. I graduated from Texas School for the Deaf; before that I attended a public school with no interpreters. I graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University. I look forward to meeting families who have a child/children with hearing loss and sharing my experiences to help those families transition to more positive experiences.