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Deaf Power: I Choose to Sign

April 14, 2020
Community Voices
A young, Latina girl with glasses makes gestures with her hands to speak in sign language. She is wearing a checkered sweater.

I’ve always wanted to attend college, but it’s been a journey to get there. 

I’m deaf. Some people see me and pity me. I was born hearing, but when I was four, I suddenly became deaf due to an extremely high fever. My mom didn’t know what to do. We were faced with many questions: Should I attend a deaf school? How will we communicate? Am I going to be okay?

I went to Lexington School for the Deaf and it was a culture shock to say the least. I had to learn sign language. The transition was difficult, but the teachers were supportive and patient. My sign language skills improved. 

I still had a big problem. I couldn’t communicate with my family. My family didn’t sign. They also spoke Spanish and were learning to speak English. My family wanted me to get a cochlear implant and communicate orally.

I did not want to “fix” my hearing or change who I am. My family insisted that I receive the implant, but it was too loud and I didn’t like it. I didn’t end up using it. I still preferred sign language and my family struggled with my deafness. I was heartbroken.

Teachers and counselors helped bridge that gap. They explained Deaf culture to my parents. They encouraged them to use an interpreter and to be proud of all I accomplished. Things have gotten better. Since then, I’ve even learned more about my Mexican culture. When I visited Mexico, my cousin told me about Mexican Sign Language. I can’t wait to learn more. 

Through these experiences, I didn’t lose sight of my goal—college. I found INCLUDEnyc. The educator, Diana Biagioli, helped me with the college application process. I needed help articulating these experiences in my personal statement. Applying for financial aid also was complicated. With help and support, I achieved my goal. 

Today, I’m attending college for my passion—design. I love working with clay and creating ceramic sculptures. I also paint, draw, and create cartoons in my spare time. Art makes me feel at peace and I can express myself without saying a word. 

Most importantly, I’m proud of who I am. I choose to sign. I proudly teach others how to sign. I teach them Deaf power. 

INCLUDEnyc’s Project Possibility program provides intensive support for youth who are transitioning into adult life. This program is made possible with lead funding from The Taft Foundation, Con Edison, and the J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation, among other funders.