Neenah, a teen client at AIS, recently shared her experience with stuttering, and a fundraiser she planned and hosted. As a person who stutters, she understands the challenges associated with public speaking, and even ordering food at a restaurant. Her interview follows.
What inspired you to put the Music For Hope Concert together to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society?
What inspired me to put together my Students of the Year fundraiser was my family's experience with cancer. When I was 9 years old my younger brother Mason was diagnosed with Leukemia. Through the 3 and a half years when he was in chemotherapy treatment and beyond, we have been super passionate about raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). Students of the Year is a fundraising competition for high schoolers. You get 7 weeks to raise as much money as you can for the LLS. You create a team of people who help you in your journey to fundraise, plan events, send out letters, etc. I planned a benefit concert called Music For Hope at my high school and it included 10 performances that were all themed around hope, love, and cancer. The concert was interdisciplinary and included a variety of students from acting, musical theater, art, classics, voice, and instrumentalist majors from my high school. We raised about $3,000 that night alone! In total, my team raised $36,000 for LLS, and we won the Students of the Year Competition!
How did your work with AIS help prepare you for speaking at the Music for Hope concert and all of the news interviews leading up to it?
AIS helped me to not see my stutter as something that should hold me back, especially from saying exactly what I want to say, when I want to say it. It helped me to feel way more confident and to stutter freely through all of my interviews.
What are you most excited about on your stuttering journey at AIS so far?
Right away it was a very welcoming environment! I actually expected my speech therapist to not have a stutter, but when my speech therapist Kristel started off the conversation stuttering like a pro, I felt so much more comfortable! I’m very excited about the tremendous amount of personal growth I've had in the time I've been working with AIS. It has helped me so much in everyday life. For example, it might sound silly, but being able to order my food on my own at a restaurant without being scared to stutter is such a big accomplishment.
What would you say to someone who stutters who wants to put on a fundraiser like this?
I’d say to just do it! If you're passionate enough about something, nothing should ever stop you or hold you back from succeeding and achieving your dreams and goals.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, and Los Angeles, CA, and services are also available online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.
Kristel Kubart, M.A., CCC-SLP
The most recent addition to AIS’ prestigious team, Kristel is also a person who stutters. Her lifelong journey to become a better communicator and more accepting of herself ignited a passion in her to help others do the same.