Meet Bobby, an Aspiring Scientist Born Deaf

Stories of inspiration like Bobby’s remind us why we work so hard to provide exceptional, cost-free programming to individuals with disabilities. Read on to learn more about Bobby’s journey to No Barriers!

Bobby is no stranger to the No Barriers Life. At 17, he was introduced to concepts like Reach and Pioneer while rafting and hiking through the Grand Canyon with a group of students, most of whom were deaf or hard of hearing. The expedition, called Leading the Way,* connected students with National Park Service staff to explore the scientific understanding and appreciate nature’s soundscapes and star-filled skies.

*Unfortunately, our Leading the Way program has lost funding for 2020. Any donations given today can support bringing this incredible travel opportunity for deaf and hard of hearing and/or blind and visually-impaired students back to life this year!

While the scenery wasn’t bad, the thing that Bobby remembers most was the feeling that he had finally found a community that understood him.

“That was the first time I’d been viewed not as someone who is deaf, but just someone who happens to be deaf.”

bobby moakley climbing and hiking with no barriersThe reality was, Bobby had been struggling. He saw himself as socially-awkward, unmotivated, isolated, and at-risk of falling behind in school. Though he was born deaf and placed in a school for deaf children, his curiosity urged him to seek a different path—mainly moving to a mainstream school. While this presented new academic opportunities, it didn’t solve for the limitations Bobby faced socially.

Withdrawn and losing motivation, Bobby had started to view his hearing loss as a curse. “While some peers scrutinized my disability, the majority of the low self-esteem and lack of confidence I experienced stemmed from myself.”

“I had always been afraid to show my true self to others.”

He knew he wanted more for his life, and this Grand Canyon experience proved to be the catalyst that would set on him the path the being to young leader he is today.

Thanks to a friend introducing him to No Barriers, he found the tools he needed to shift his perspective. He saw how he and his peers have the power to change the world by working hard and not letting anything impose limitations on their lives.

>> Donate Now to Bring More Stories like Bobby’s to Life

It took reaching outside—far outside—of his comfort zone for Bobby to see how he could grow as a person. “Being immersed in this group during the trip made me so comfortable with them that I was able to come out of my shell,” he said. From that place, he started to feel better about his hearing loss, too.

bobby moakley in deep thoughtA year after Bobby’s momentous Grand Canyon journey, he embarked on a second Leading the Way expedition—this time to Peru. From visiting astonishing historical sites to engaging in service projects with Peruvian students who were also deaf, the expedition stirred an array of emotions. “Up until my trip, I was oblivious to the lack of deaf support systems in Peru.”

The Peru expedition ended the day before Bobby moved into his college dorm to begin his freshman year at Rochester Institute of Technology, a school with a large deaf population.

Bobby recently graduated with a degree in an environmental science major, and an impressive college resume to boot.

During his senior year, he was elected RIT Student Government President, and served as a fellow to the Ecological Society of America (ESA). He was also an Urban Fellow to Rochester, working with stakeholders in the local community to provide solutions to complex urban issues. This past summer, he interned at No Barriers USA, supporting the Youth programs whose experiences launched him on the path he’s on today.

Bobby has come a long way from feeling like an outsider in high school to representing more than 18,000 students on RIT campuses and speaking to audiences of thousands.

“The Grand Canyon trip exposed me to the natural sciences, and motivated me to pursue Environmental Sciences and my ESA fellowship. The community and acceptance of No Barriers is what inspired me to act as an advocate for others and make the world a better place.”

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bobby moakley with his no barriers travel group

In 2019, we were able to support more than 1,400 youth, 225 warriors, and bring nearly 5,000 individuals and families to the Summit. But this doesn’t include the hundreds of individuals we had to turn away due to lack of funding.

Be on rope with the No Barriers community as we strive to unleash the potential of the human spirit. Consider donating to further our impact this year!

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April 9, 2020
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