And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25(ESV)
Last week I was invited to speak to the Hillsborough County Deaf and Hard of Hearing staff to kick off their school year. My former high school teacher, Michelle Henry, asked me to share my experience as a DHH student in Hillsborough County. This was a challenge for me—I don’t like to express my feelings or struggles with others. Yet, I know that this opportunity to share my time as a student is invaluable to teachers and interpreters as they prepare for another year. As I put together my speech I realized that I am not the only student who has endured what I have faced. There are several teachers and interpreters (many of them were there to hear my speech) who have helped shape me into the person I am today.
With gratitude, I present to you a piece of my speech:
I would like to share my experience as a student in Hillsborough County’s DHH program. When I first entered school I was placed in a Deaf and Hard of Hearing classroom. Later, when I started 2nd grade, my family decided to place me in a mainstreamed classroom to challenge me academically. This means that they put me in a hearing classroom with an interpreter to facilitate communication. During this year as a newly mainstreamed student, I learned how to connect with the hearing world. As I grew up, I continued to mainstream throughout my years from second grade on. In the middle of my freshman year, I was forced to be pulled out due to my back surgery to correct my scoliosis. I was home schooled for the rest of my high school years. During the course of those years I endured many health issues that prevented me from going back to school.
Coleen, one of my many interpreters helped me develop into an independent thinker, and to achieve my goals in life. She shaped me into who I am today. I have grown from that because she saw something in me as a student and wanted the best for me. I would grow lazy in class and she would tell me to “pay attention” many… many times. Sometimes though, my time as a DHH student was tough. I felt left out and misunderstood. It was difficult for me to relate to the other students, deaf and hearing. I wasn’t sure where I belonged. I felt pulled in-between both worlds. There were times when I got discouraged due to some of the teachers lack of patience with me. It seemed like they weren’t willing to take the time to help me learn when I needed it most. Teachers and DHH staff, these moments are valuable opportunities with your students to encourage them to grow. The more comfortable your students are with you, the more willing they are to go the extra mile.
Jenna Cousin also made an impact on me during my high school years. She encouraged me to read more and challenged me to sharpen my ASL and English skills. Her dedication to her students and passion for teaching spurred me onto my journey in writing.
Despite all of my challenges, I continue to follow my dreams and to find joy in Christ. Regardless of my Deafness, which caused me to be fearful of writing, I have come to realize that this is God’s plan for me.
Because of their support and passion for others, I was able to accomplish what I have been called to do which is to write and create art work for the His glory. I cannot convey with words how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to inspire teachers and interpreters alike. Remember, you make a difference in each child’s life and you have the power to encourage others to follow their dreams and challenge them to achieve good things in life.
Sharing my speech was an honor. I hope my story has inspired you as well.1