Free speech

The problem: For the 3 million people in the United States who stutter, fear and anxiety can accompany even the simplest social interaction. Speech therapy helps children manage their stuttering, but there’s no known way to eliminate it completely.

How the U is responding: At the weeklong University of Minnesota Camp for Kids Who Stutter camp, held each year in June, children do group activities focusing on the emotions and attitudes associated with stuttering. They also go on fun campus field trips to places like The Raptor Center in order to build confidence in natural ways, like asking the tour guides questions and interacting with each other.

Why it matters: William Hoff, a college student who attended the camp as a child, says it was the first time he’d met other kids who stutter. “It was a comfortable environment that helped you be OK with stuttering,” he says. “It’s nice to know other kids have the same experiences you do.”

How philanthropy made it happen: U of M alumnus Leo Sioris, CEO and cofounder of SafetyCall International and a professor in the U’s College of Pharmacy, never forgot how a U of M speech-language pathologist helped him in his own struggles with stuttering as both a child and a college student. He wanted to give back, so he and his wife made a generous gift that created the camp and funded support groups for teens and college students who stutter. Their gift also supports two former U of M grad students who lead camp activities.

Related stories

  • Aaliyah Hodge
    Aaliyah Hodge is a pioneer in the new field of charter school oversight.
  • New citizen at a naturalization ceremony, holding an American flag
    The U of M's James H. Binger Center for New Americans brings new hope to immigrants and refugees.