Deaf Awareness

“Deaf awareness”
One Monday morning at 7:30 am I clicked the link to attend the Deaf Awareness Alternative Winter Break. Deaf Awareness is such a broad topic so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there are Deaf and deaf people in the world. I knew some American Sign Language but I didn’t know what I was in for. Our break left December 13th for Washington D.C. We were told that for the first half of our day we would work with Deaf REACH. Service: UNKNOWN. The second half of our day would be spent at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School on Galludet University’s campus. Service: Working with children. General enough.

So what did we end up doing?

During the first service we worked together to 1. Pack over 600 Safe Sex Kits, 2. File paperwork, 3. Shred years of papers 4. Design information business cards, 4×6 cards, T-shirts and, 5. Decorate office door displays. This service was one of the most rewarding jobs because we could see our work getting done. We were able to see progress through out the week. What does this have to do with Deaf Awareness? Well, half of the staff is Deaf and uses American Sign Language as their primary language. The week was spent pushing ourselves to learn new signs, sentence structure and practice communicating with people within the Deaf community. Instead of the staff giving us “volunteer work” which usually breaks down to just filing and cleaning, they took us on as ‘staff.’ They gave us real projects. They made our time feel meaningful because we were giving them real work.

At Kendall Demonstration School we worked in two separate groups. Half of the group spent time with the Kindergarten and younger kids while my group worked with 1st-4th grade. This was another amazing time for us to learn signs we’ve never used before.

I can’t wait to take these signs back to my classes as I finish my American Sign Language minor. I find myself causally throwing signs into my daily life. I hope that in my future I will be able to find friends who are also interested in American Sign Language. It is so helpful when you’re far away from someone or in a loud area. In the last few years I have noticed a slow decline in my hearing and I hope that in my future I will be able it to communicate more clearly.

A few moments from our trip…

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The final day with all of our Safe Sex Kits.

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We learned about safe sex.

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Our grow outside of Deaf REACH.

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Alternative Break

The Alternative Break program is one of the most awarding programs I have been blessed to be a piece of. I was lucky enough to click on ‘Youth Advocacy’ at  7:30 am back in October of 2013. The break didn’t set sail until March of 2014. Not only did I pick a topic that interested me, I also met 11 other amazing CMU students. During the week we worked at the Charleston Youth Development Center. The CYDC is an emergency shelter that takes in children who need a place to stay. Children are then either returned to their families through social service intervention or are able to stay at the shelter. We spent a week organizing their storage center while the children were at school. When the children came home was when the real fun started. We tutored the students until dinner time. Tutoring usually consisted of racing to finish homework so we could hang out. We sat around laughing, learning about them and just enjoying the children’s company. If you have the opportunity to give back to the world, I suggest you do it.

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Eagle Village: Mentor Status

Eagle Village was successful yet again. Last year I went as a mentee, now I’m a mentor. I’ve been through all of my firsts so now it was time to watch my mentee’s leadership style. We climbed high ropes courses, challenged ourselves, built relationships and had an amazing weekend. We worked closely with members of the 2012 and 2013 cohort. Now I get to watch my mentee grow, build relationships, get involved and be a leader. I’m extremely excited to watch their cohort. I have good vibes about them.

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Cheers to a new year. With my 2012 LAS cohort and the brand new 2013 cohort.1237033_10151691796179075_1996948639_nCheers to my wonderful mentee. He challenged me, spoke up in the group and stepped up for challenges. I’m extremely excited to see where he goes with not only a broadcasting major, his time at Central but, most importantly running his own magic company: The Magic of Trino. I can’t wait to watch my baby mentee blossom.

The Gay Experience

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I was born to a heterosexual couple. They lived a heterosexual life together. They had a heterosexual divorce. They have heterosexual friends. I live a very heterosexual life. I do heterosexual things. I plan on having a heterosexual marriage. One thing I had growing up in my heterosexual life was a homosexual couple. One of the biggest influences on my early childhood was that love is love. I saw their love the same as my parents’. I loved them, they loved me and they loved each other.

Recently brought up was that California, a state formally accepting of gay marriage, is now reviewing the law that states ‘Gay marriage is illegal.’ Many believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The New York Times reported on this subject. They brought forward both the pro and anti gay marriage views.

So what is everyone fighting about? There are many counter arguments to homosexual marriage. Many people believe it would destroy the sanctity of marriage, the government cannot afford to pay for gay marriage and that the couples would be able to adopt children. I believe these are all terrible excuses to stick with tradition. Tradition has its place and time but on occasion it needs to be mixed up.

So what am I going to do about it now? Well one, I’m going to continue to believe that love is love. All love is still love. I also hope to show my support in a march one day. I think that would be “awesome opossum.”

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#LASintheD

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Friday, March 22nd a group of over 40 staff and students traveled down to Detroit, MI from Mount Pleasant, MI. Some people left with hesitations and others were excited to back by home. For some this was their first time going to Detroit while others could get us around the city without any hassle. I fall in between the two categories.

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Day 1

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Friday afternoon we went to the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. The academy was founded in 2011. Their 10th graders are the first class to have been accepted. The children come to JRLA with a below average reading level and are behind in many subjects. The teachers try to catch the children up by cramming two years of learning into one. They can accomplish this by extending the school days and year. The kids start school at 9 am and go until 4:30 in the evening. The students attend a leadership class and many of their studies focus on how to better their skills.

Our assignment was to facilitate leadership activities with their 9th and 10th grade class. It was an eye opener for some people. My dad’s school has similar demographics to the academy. Even though I’ve grown up being around a majority of inner city kids, it can get overwhelming at times. There was definitely a difference between how these kids acted compared to my high school class. Something that shocked me was the amount of male students. As I go through my leadership programs there is usually a majority of girls in them. It excited me to know that these boy’s families wanted to see them as strong leaders in the future. The personal development of boys in urban communities usually gets over looked. My group struggled to keep control of the students. They were obviously excited and all had overpowering personalities.

If I got the chance I would go back to the academy to help out. I think these groups would have benefited from being separated into small groups and then put into individual classrooms with the facilitators. That way the students had fewer distractions and the facilitators could have connected better with them.

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Day 2

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Saturday we finally got our hands dirty. Well when we left our hands, clothes, faces, hair and lungs were covered in the remains of a house. My group worked on the Georgia Street Community Collective. Two local men decided to make a difference. They’re locals of the street and are sick of having run down houses in their neighborhood. They turned a warehouse into a computer lab and hang out spot of other locals. The computer lab program grew so much that they wanted to expand it across the street. The house needed some serious TLC. We ripped down all of they drywall on the first floor and stairs. There was easily over a ton of debris hauled from the house including drywall, metal scraps and remains from fire damage. Our group worked for just a little over two hours. In that time we put their project ahead of schedule by an entire month. It’s an amazing feeling to know we did so much. A group of about twenty helped a project take a giant step forward.

What do I want to do now? I want to go back. As I was writing this post I looked on their Facebook page. They have an Easter egg hunt this weekend that I would be interested in volunteering at with my family. I’m going to run the idea by my dad and see what happens.

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One of the biggest things I’m going to take away from the trip is gratefulness. I’m grateful for the blessed life I’ve been given. Some families have to save up for months to buy the $80 blazer while I bought rain boots that cost more. I’m also grateful for the experiences I’ve gone through. I live in a culturally diverse area. I’ve been able to travel; to go to big cities along with small ones. I have to thank my parents for giving me experiences that broaden my outlook on life.

Marlee Matlin

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Marlee Matlin is an award winning actress from Illinois who just happens to be deaf. Marlee first stepped on the scene in 1986 with a major role in Children of a Lesser God. Since then she has appeared in several movies and shows, including ABC Family’s ground breaking TV drama Switched at Birth.

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 Matlin spoke on Central’s campus. Not only did those involved in the ASL programs learn a lot, but also the regular students and community members that attended increased their awareness of deaf culture. I learned so much from her speech. I was able to critically think about deaf culture and experience another point of view. My hearing friends who aren’t involved in the ASL program also attended her speech. They left her speech interested in deaf culture and full of questions to ask. I believe her appearance on campus brought a lot of awareness to interacting with deaf culture.

She was such an inspiring woman. My favorite part of her speech was her short story towards the end. She shared a story about a king who owned the most perfect diamond. He loved it so much that he treated it like a child. One night while cradling it in his sleep he accidently dropped it. The fall left a blemish on his beautiful diamond. A long thin spindling crack extended from the bottom of the diamond to the top. He was heart broken. Someone told the king they had the ability to fix his precious treasure. A week later the servant brought back the diamond. Upon inspecting his prize, the king noticed the diamond was still cracked. The servant showed the king the bottom of the diamond. At that spot the servant had carved a beautiful rose. He then said to the king “Now the most beautiful diamond has the most beautiful rose on it.” I loved being reminded to take what you are given and make it even more wonderful. We make the world we live in either wonderful or a living nightmare.

Matlin truly is the loudest person in the room. She gives off energy of pure joy and excitement. She obviously loves life. Matlin never let her “disability” (a word she doesn’t like to use) stand in the way of her dreams. She also hated being treated differently but her family always had an answer for everything. The sign in her neighborhood about the deaf kids was because she was special; no one else had their own sign. If someone picked on her voice, it was because she had the accent of her super secret spy parents. One of Matlin’s biggest inspirations is Henry Winkler. He stood behind her in all of her endeavors. He told her that “You can be whatever you want to be” at a conference when she was a young child.

During the evening Q&A portion a mother asked a question that stumped Matlin. She wondered about what advice she gave her daughters as they were growing up. Matlin gave some great advice for present and future mothers. She supports the idea of loving yourself. Matlin is truly an inspiration. She inspires other to accept themselves, “disabilities” and all. She is a very personable woman. The evening session wasn’t quite as personal as the afternoon session. I also attended the Q&A during the afternoon. That’s when we learned personal stories and she joked around more. During that session we also got to learn a little about Jack, her interpreter. They work well together and are obviously best friends. That’s where I learned she is still working to improve herself. She answered a question saying, “I still don’t know what I want to be.” She told the audience to never stop tasting new things. Life is about new experiences. I would’ve loved to sit down with her and talk about life. She is incredibly open-minded and independent, two things I really admire.

During the afternoon session Matlin asked the audience a question. She wondered if using her male interpreter Jack was weird. Jack interpreting for her gives Matlin a male voice to the hearing community, which to some may seem strange. I think it gives her situation uniqueness. I personally think it’s funny and represents how unique she truly is.

#CMUPornDebate

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*Warning, some of these links may contain sexually explicit material

Tuesday, February 19th, Central Michigan University’s program board presented The Great Porn Debate. This free event to students featured Craig Gross, a pastor from Souther California and Nina Hartley, a still employed sex positive feminist porn start. This debate argued the place that porn has in society, relationships and as a career.

Nina Hartley
Nina Hartley
“Don’t drink and have sex.”

Hartley has been in the sex industry since the 1970’s. Since the beginning of her career she has starred in over 650 adult films. She is recognized as one of the most known actresses in her field. She identifies as an outspoken sex positive feminist. She advicates fully consenting sex and out against the choice to “just get it over with.” She believes that sex is something for both people to enjoy.

Craig Gross
Craig Gross
“[porn] creates unrealistic fantasies that, one, if you’re a woman you can’t live up to; and two, as a guy it’s going to taint your view on sex.”

Gross was a pastor in Southern California for several years. While ministering there he noticed a reoccurring issue: porn addiction. He decided to take the issue on head first and create XXXchurch.com. The site address the problems behind porn. During his side of the discussion he never put porn down entirely. His problem with porn is that it creates the inability to be intimate. Women start to believe they need to live up to these crazy expectations and men expect sex to be something entirely different. He’d rather see couples turn to each other for that kind of stimulation instead of the TV.

This experience was very enriching to me. Since I can remember, I’ve viewed sex as a negative thing. I thought it was gross, weird, dirty, bad, all kinds of negative things. After listening to both presenters talk I realized it might not be as terrible as I thought. It also reiterated my idea of loving yourself before you can love someone else.