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…
The final day with all of our Safe Sex Kits.
We learned about safe sex.
Our grow outside of Deaf REACH.
We traveled by Metro.
Brian Pruitt is a CMU alumni. He is a former all-American athlete, author and entrepreneur. Pruitt is also the founder of The Power of Dad. A program dedicated to turning fatherless inner city boys into men. His team is devoted to teaching boys 21 essential skills from tying a tie to hygiene and dating. Over a 9 month period the boys learn to forgive their fathers and are then able to graduate from the program as men. Pruitt grew up fatherless. Not until he was 22 years old did he learn that a clip on tie was unacceptable.
I can apply his story to my life. 7th grade was the last time I saw my mother. She didn’t walk out on me, I walked out on her. That year I decided my mother didn’t deserve to have me in her life because of the poor choices she was making. My mom, time and time again, choose one of my two stepfathers over her own children. Many times I told her “You forgot babies came with umbilical cords.” Even before then my mother wasn’t much of an influence in my life. After she divorced my father she put my sister and I on the back burner. I grew up without a motherly influence. Luckily I’ve always had our amazing family friend Gail, but she’s still not my biological mom. Without my mother there for me my dad had to try to fill in for her. He has always tried to be Mr. Mom but cannot teach me certain things. I learned how to put on makeup from a friend. Everything I learned about developing was from research and uncomfortably asking around. During my first period, though my dad continues to deny it, he told me that a period is a beautiful thing. In many cultures they send the women away from the village to have her period but we respect it here. Let’s just say my early years were equivalent to a bad episode of Full House staring Jim Long as Danny Tanner, my sister Madeline as Stephanie and myself as D.J. I wouldn’t trade the relationship I have with my dad for anything but it was a struggle sometimes.
Pruitt lost the parent he is supposed to look up to. His mission is to give struggling boys the influence of a man in their early years. His program is unbelievably respectable and I hope that it can grow. It even sparked a little interest in my heart for another passion.
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.”