For 19-year-old Jack Mattalug, becoming the architect of his own future is a top priority. “I want to be an architect or an engineer”, said Jack. “I enjoy studying art and math and I like working on the computer.”
Jack’s desire and determination is even more impressive when you consider the challenges he faces. Jack, a resident of Bethesda, Maryland, has both visual and hearing impairments. He has an artificial left eye and minimal vision in his right. He also has moderate hearing loss in his right ear and wears a hearing aid.
But with assistive technology, Jack is meeting his challenges head on and succeeding. In 2002, the honor roll student at Rockville High School was accepted into the competitive drafting and design program at Thomas Edison School of Technology. Jack takes academic classes at Rockville High and then participates in the half-day program at Edison, also part of the Montgomery County Public School system. Jack takes Computer Aided Design classes (CAD) as part of his pre-engineering and architecture training at Edison, drafting plans and creating architectural and engineering designs.
Since creating these designs involves seeing and drawing intricate details, The Eric Fund awarded Jack a closed circuit TV (CCTV) with a color monitor to help him read the diagrams, teacher corrections and text books essential to his studies. To help Jack hear more effectively in class, The Eric Fund also awarded Jack an FM System to help him filter out background noises during class. The FM system allows a teacher to wear a microphone to transmit the lesson directly to Jack’s FM system, allowing him to hear better and concentrate. The school system allowed him to use the FM system and CCTV on a trial basis, but in order to succeed, Jack needed to own the equipment so he can use it at home for homework, in school and take it with him when he goes to college. And since the insurance company does not deem the equipment, while essential to his success and development, medically necessary, the cost is not covered. “Jack is harder working than any other student I have all day long,” says his pre-engineering teacher. “He is a joy to work with. An ‘A’ student.”
His vision teacher at Rockville High, Arlene Mak, who told Jack about The Eric Fund Fund, agrees. “Jack is one of those kids who touches people. No matter who he comes into contact with, he shines through and people recognize what a great, driven kid he is,” Ms. Mak says.
Jack’s mother, Dominga Tayem, was thrilled that her son was receiving an Eric Fund Grant. When she immigrated to the United States in 1984 from the Philippines as a nanny for a diplomatic family, she did so with the intent of eventually bringing Jack, his two sisters and her husband over to enjoy a better life in the United States and to get better services for Jack. She was separated from her family for 11 years, until she established citizenship in 1996 and was able to bring her family over to join her.
Ms. Tayem says Jack has blossomed in the six years he has been in the U.S. and she is grateful for all of the opportunities he has been given in the school system. She works several jobs to help support her family and send her kids to college. “Education is very important to me. It’s important to improve your life, especially here in America,” says Ms. Tayem. “I want my kids to have every opportunity to get a good job and be what they want to be.”
For all she has done for him and his family, Jack tells his mom he is going to design a house for her one day. “It is the greatest thing to hear that. But I told him I don’t want a big house. I don’t want to be cleaning it,” she says with a laugh.