Leading the Bison Charge!

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Esther of the Holy Bible was a queen and a heroine. She famously saved her people (the Jews) from annihilation. The only thing stranger than the plot twists in this story is the fact that it's ACTUALLY TRUE!!! Esther Drake, on the other hand, is not a monarch and I don't know if she's ever saved anyone's life. While that is not exactly a glowing endorsement (and anticlimactic), I am PROUD to say she's my FRIEND!!!

Just over 3 years ago, I asked Esther Drake to show me to Gallaudet University's library so I could study Deaf Culture. She and her son Jeremiah (future Gallaudet football and basketball star) escorted me first to the exhibit in the Edward Miner Gallaudet building, then to the Merrill Learning Center (campus library). Since then, I've spent hundreds of hours in the building named after Gallaudet's fourth president reading dozens of books about Deaf History, written my Buff and Blue (BnB) articles there, and composed this post in my favorite spot there. It's the very building in which Esther and I had a fateful conversation.

At the end of the Fall 2014, I was doing some research for a BnB article (that never materialized, but I hope to revive at some point) and saw Esther. I told her about what I was working on. She asked me if I wanted to write a book. I replied that I didn't want to, not because I don't think I'm capable of doing so, but I don't think that's the best outlet for my writing talent.

Fast forward several weeks, maybe about a month, to Friday, December 19th. I was talking with an acquaintance about how I needed to use my writing skills to enter some scholarship contests. I showed him my very first BnB article, "Gallaudet's Finest". He was impressed. He said he had some papers he wanted me to look at and maybe come up with something. His dad was a World War II veteran who died a few years back, but had left behind some records.  I excitedly replied, "You want me to write something up for you?!?" At this point I just thought he wanted me to write something for his personal records or his family's records. He said, "Yeah, and whatever happens, I just want 5%." I said, "You want me to write a book?!?" I couldn't believe it!!! Just a few weeks earlier, Esther had asked me if I wanted to write a book. She had gone from being a friend to also being a prophet! Naturally, she was one of the first people I told.

Now, this is an AMAZING opportunity!! I've met my acquaintance's mother and been to their house where I looked over some of their records. I'm not sure, however, if I will write the book. Why? Because it would be a very time consuming process and would no doubt consume time I could otherwise be spending with the Deaf Community. Whether I write the book or not, I will ALWAYS be most proud of my writing to, for, and about the Deaf Community whether it's my BnB articles, this blog, or future endeavors, because THAT is where my heart is!!!

So, Esther Drake will probably not have a book of the Bible named after her. (I think that's pretty much done.) She probably won't be a queen and may never save a life (if she already hasn't). But for the last 5 years, she has been MY FRIEND, which was more than enough!! Now, she's also a PROPHET! So as a belated birthday gift, THANK YOU ESTHER!!!

*I am dedicating this post to Esther Drake and EVERYONE who has encouraged me through both my signing and writing. Although Esther is the subject of this article, I am grateful to the dozens of people who have supported me over the last 6 years!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2015


BISON ROCK!!! I have been blessed to be surrounded by some amazing, talented, intelligent people. Each year, I enjoy dedicating a blogpost to recognizing the accomplishments of BISON I know personally. It just so happens that each of the BISON I am honoring this year are part of my favorite team, the Gallaudet University Women's Basketball Team and one is a former member. It is my great pleasure to feature 4 friends in this post: recent Gallaudet grads Lane Peters and Nikkia Smith, along with Zamica Gage who was named to the USA National Team for the World Deaf Basketball Championship. I am also including former Galluadet baller Kari Olney who is getting married shortly.

Lane Peters just wrapped up her undergrad studies with a Bachelor's in Sociology from Gallaudet. Although she was a key player on the basketball team, she is a volleyball player at heart. You DO NOT want to be on the opposite side of the net from her!!! She is an absolute MONSTER on the volleyball court and was MVP for the 2013 North Eastern Athletic Conference tournament and 2013-2014 Student Athlete of the Year when she played volleyball, basketball, AND ran track!!! Her presence on the basketball court will be sorely missed not only because she was the lone 6-footer, but more importantly because of her production. As a co-captain this year as she led the team in rebounds (5th in the conference), recorded 5 double-doubles, and was named the team's Most Outstanding Player. Lane, I know I have teased you for being "so volleyball", but you HANDLE BUSINESS on the basketball court as well!! I wish I was there to see the NASTY block Zamica told me you had on the road against Cazenovia!! I was initially surprised when I saw your name on the basketball roster in Fall 2013, but I'm a believer now. Because of you, I have developed greater respect for volleyball and even enjoyed several games at the Field House. You, my friend, are a cool chick and a TRUE BALLER!!!  

Nikkia Smith has faithfully served as a graduate assistant alongside Head Coach Stephanie Stevens for the last 2 years and the ONLY assistant coach for the last year and a half. She's a newly minted Gallaudet graduate with a  Master's in Public Education. She was the all-time leading scorer for her high school (boys and girls teams) and went onto a NCAA Division I career at the University of Hartford where she was named team MVP as a senior along with numerous other awards. She has been involved with Deaf basketball camps for several years. She has been a key factor in the monumental improvements the team has made over the last 2 seasons. Nikkia, your leadership has been vital to the team's success and is irreplaceable. I personally have enjoyed chatting with you from time to time. Your competence, intelligence, and confidence will serve you well in your future endeavors!!!

The ZAMMER, the ZAMINATOR, or just ZAM! Zamica Gage was named to the USA National Team this year for the World Deaf Basketball Championship that will take place in Taipei, Taiwan July 4-12. After much deliberation, she recently decided not to play as other priorities require her attention. She began this season as a starting shooting guard and was moved to point guard in January. She led the team in scoring (10th in the conference) and steals (3rd in the conference) and fortunately has another year to go. Zam was named to the All-NEAC Second Team. She is RIDICULOUSLY talented in so many sports. Zam, I've had the wonderful opportunity of seeing you grow as a person, especially over the past year. You probably don't realize it, but YOU challenge ME to be a better person! I'm PROUD of you!!! I LOVE YOU, SIS!!!

I don't normally recognize impending marriages in my annual tribute post, but I am making an exception for Kari Olney, my Deaf Mom. Kari was my inspiration for learning ASL and my first ASL teacher. It's been 6 years and I've still probably learned more than half of the ASL I know from Kari, my ASL class at Gally notwithstanding. She's an INCREDIBLY patient teacher! Neither of us realized that she would open up a whole new world to me and change my life! I never had any interest in ASL or the Deaf Community before meeting Kari, but now I CAN'T GO BACK!! Even more important than that has been her friendship. YOU ROCK DEAF MOM!!!

Each of  these ladies has represented Gally with distinction and excellence!!  I have only listed a few of their accolades. They are proud to be BISON and Gallaudet is proud of them! Above and beyond their individual accomplishments and their contributions to the success of the BISON, I am particularly proud to call EACH of them my friend!!!


*You can read more about the team in "Leading the Bison Charge!". Just click on the title at the top of the page or simply clicking this link http://pardonmyasl.blogspot.com/p/lr.html

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


I'M STILL STRONG! These are the words Antwone Fisher said to his foster mother (who verbally and physically abused him) and his babysitter (who molested him) when he saw them for the first time in several years. "Antwone Fisher" is my favorite biopic and this is one of my favorite parts of the movie. I have watched that movie start to finish probably more than any other movie. Although I have not faced nearly the level of adversity Antwone experienced, I currently find myself in the midst of a mix of blessings, challenges, and opportunities that are shaping me into a better person, signer, writer, and most importantly, hopefully a better friend!

Picking up where I left off in "Round 2", I applied as a non-degree seeking student after being denied admission to the Hearing UnderGrad Program at Gallaudet University. I was accepted and I placed into ASL 111, which is ASL I  and ASL II combined into an accelerated course. Turns out, my professor was Kari Olney's assistant basketball coach in high school. (Of course, Kari knows all the Deaf people in the world.) I got an 89% for the class, just barely missing an "A". I thought I could take my class free as an employee, however found out around mid-semester I could not get a tuition waiver as a temporary employee.

Of course, I continued my watergirl duties. I worked fewer hours due to budget cuts and students who volunteered for class credit. But it's particularly gratifying this year as I get to see Zamica Gage handle business on the hardwood!!! She has taken several hard fouls this season, BUT TEAMS CAN'T STOP THE ZAMINATOR!!! As a starting shooting guard and sometime point guard, she leads the team with just under 19 points a game and also contributes 5 rebounds and 2 steals per game. I'm PROUD of her both on AND off the court!!! LOVE YOU SIS!!!

I was somehow able to convince (without bribery or blackmail) the Buff and Blue sports editor to allow me to write an article. I now have two articles online and have 2 more in the works. (You can click on the link below to read my articles. I write under the pen name GU Water Girl.) I was excited to exercise my writing skills in a new way. I particularly enjoy the interviews. (We have some AMAZING people at Gallaudet!!!) I truly believe the editing process has made me a better writer, even with just 2 published articles, so far. It teaches me to write with more clarity and to be more organized. However, sometimes I feel the edits don't accurately represent what I'm trying to articulate. I DO enjoy the process, though!

A few months ago, car problems left me without access to a vehicle. Even that has a bright side, because I have been walking A LOT and find that walking helps me control my stress. As a severe introvert, it gives me time to process things and it's easier for me to think when I'm moving. I find it to be very peaceful. That pretty much sums up this past semester, so what's next for me?

I don't know! (That answer was anticlimactic, wasn't it?!) I may have to work next semester to pay off my tuition. I can't register for classes anyway as long as my balance is over $1,000. Now, the athletic director wants everyone with my job to be students. So, I told my boss, if I'm not a student next semester, I'd like to keep my position as a volunteer. I'd rather volunteer than not do it at all! At the very least, I will continue to support the Bison basketball teams as a fan! I'm also stepping up my scholarship research (particularly for essay contests) in preparation for Fall 2015. I GOTTA get in next Fall!

This semester has had it's ups and downs. FINALLY becoming a Gallaudet University student (even if it is just non-degree seeking with one class) and writing for Buff and Blue are dreams come true!! My struggles have made me more patient, helped me see the bright side of difficult situations, made me stronger, and helped me mature. (I know, the idea of me maturing is scary!!!) So, like Antwone Fisher, yes I am still standing! Not only am I still strong, but now I'm even stronger! I will defer to Antwone to finish the opening quote, "AND I ALWAYS WILL BE!!!"


Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Yeah, I know, ROUND 1 was 1 1/2 years ago and I've just now gotten around to ROUND 2.  Call it the spiritual gift of procrastination.  So, I'm sitting here in the library in the Merrill Learning Center (Gallaudet University's library) and I just spoke with Melba Goodwin, who is the director of the Hearing UnderGrad program.  I was pre-approved for admission based on my previous college transcripts and ACT scores-including a perfect score on the essay.  (Ok, I admit, I  took the ACT on campus and Gally gives you like twice the time, but you get to witness my stellar writing skills here in my blog!!! And yes, I am very humble!!!)  Anyway, ROUND 2 was the hard part.  I had a HUG interview and the American Sign Language-Proficiency Interview.

It's probably NOT a good thing when during an interview, the interviewer keeps telling you to relax and drink some of the water she gave you before the interview began!  I wasn't as nervous as I appeared.  I wasn't sure how Melba and her boss, Trina Schooley, felt about my answers though.  Melba took A LOT of notes, which can be unnerving for the interviewee.  (Yes, that's a real word; I looked it up.  Google can't lie, right?!)  Anyway, it could have gone a lot better; probably could have gone a lot worse, though.

The ASL-PI was my real obstacle, though.  Basically, it's a conversation with an "interviewer" that is recorded and then evaluated to determine the interviewee's ASL skills.  I felt the conversation was quite pleasant.  We mostly talked about my major (PE).  However, my score was low.

After getting my ASL-PI score in April and not receiving a final decision, I FINALLY went to talk to Melba in person.  She said they had mailed me a letter saying I was denied due to my low ASL-PI score.  (If only I had half the proficiency in ASL that I have in English...)  I never received the letter, but that is irrelevant at this point.  The question is what to do next short of going van Gogh* style.  If I was deaf or hard of hearing, I could be admitted without the ASL-PI and simply have to pass it for graduation.  As much as I want to go to Gally, I don't think I can pull off the van Gogh look!!!

Two of my friends, JB and Zamica Gage, have recently offered to tutor me in ASL.  Others have offered in the past.  I am also looking into taking classes on campus.  I will just have to go more rounds than I intended.  I will have to wait a little longer to suit up in the BUFF AND BLUE and play for Coach Stephanie Stevens.  I have had the honor of witnessing her coach up close as part of my watergirl duties and spoken with her personally.  I have great respect for her personally AND as a coach!!!  (I'm NOT just saying that cuz she will have the authority to make me run suicides one day!!!)

In conclusion, I must say that I AM NOT DISCOURAGED!!!  I WILL GO TO GALLY!!!  No, this is NOT the result I wanted.  However, as I told my good friend Dayak Dashuwar, "It's just a speed bump.  Speed bumps force you to slow down, but they DON'T stop you.."

*Vincent van Gogh was a painter in the 19th century who cut off his own ear.  

Friday, May 16, 2014


THE COOLEST, CRAZIEST CHICA EVER IN THE FREAKIN UNIVERSE!!! Today my friend, Asia Riedinger, is graduating from Gallaudet University.  Of course, I am proud of her. I am even more proud that she is Magna Cum Laude.  But you don't get your own post in this highly-acclaimed blog (I can dream, can't I?!) based on such superficial criteria.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not discounting her accomplishments.  I AM truly proud of her.  But I'm even MORE proud to count her as a personal friend!!!  I would not trade the time I spent hanging with her for ANYTHING!!!  I will miss her dearly...especially when she scolds me by shaking her finger at me!!!  I wish nothing but the absolute best for her as she pursues future endeavors.  CHICA, YOU ARE THE BEST!!!  I LOVE YOU!!!  (PLEASE, don't tell Zims)!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

GO BISON 2013!!!

According to the Chinese calendar, 2013 is the year of the snake.  (I googled it and the internet can't be wrong, right?!)  Actually, 2013 (and every other year for that matter) is the year of the BISON...Gallaudet University BISON that is!!!  I am dedicating this post to 5 BISON who have each achieved major success in one of two categories this year.  I know of other BISON who have also accomplished the same feats, however, I am highlighting these 5, because I know each of them personally.

The first set of BISON I want to acknowledge are the Class of 2013.  Of course, I want to congratulate ALL the BISON who graduated this year, but these are the ones I know personally.

First up is Laura Penrod.  She got her Bachelor's degree in Family and Child Studies.  I met Laura about 2 or 3 months after starting to learn ASL.  She is actually my 2nd Deaf friend.  Laura, I have enjoyed hangin with you and only wish we could have hung out more!!

Next up is Rebecca Pursley.  She graduated with a Master's in Social Work.  Rebecca, I have enjoyed the opportunities I have had the privilege of watching you passionately interpret worship during church!!

The final 2013 grad I want to highlight is Heather Zimmerman.  Zims received her Master's in International Development and is going for a Doctorate in Education.  Z, you are my milk chocolate sista (sometimes A LOT more milk than chocolate, though).  I will NEVER have another friend quite like you and the world will NEVER have another friendship quite like ours!!!

Students graduate from Gallaudet University every year, however, the Summer Deaflympics only happen every 4 years.  I recognized many of the names of the athletes representing the Team USA in the Deaflympics, especially men's and women's basketball players, from my volunteering and subsequent employment as an athletic training aide (I prefer "watergirl") this past year.  It was a pleasure to serve them and I applaud them for making Team USA!!!  (For a full list of GU athletes and coaches who coached or played during the 2012-2013 school year and are participating in the Deaflympics for Team USA go to www.gallaudetathletics.com.)  Now I want to recognize my friends who will represent Team USA.*

Zamica Gage is a student at Gally and a TREMENDOUS athlete!!!  She unfortunately, did not play basketball for the BISON last season due to an injury, but I have played football with her and seen her play softball for the BISON.  ZAM, you are one cool and crazy chick and I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU DUNK!!!  I KNOW YOU WILL HIT 'EM WITH THE ZAM!!!

Finally, there is Roman Nawrocki who everyone knows as Rusty.  He graduated Gally in 2011 with a Bachelor's in Chemistry.  He was one of the first Deaf people I met.  Rusty, your are a GREAT guy!!  You have always been VERY patient and helpful with me and my ASL.  Now, it's time to flip the switch and KICK SOME INTERNATIONAL BUTT IN TAEKWONDO!!!

I am PROUD to know EACH of these BISON and call them friends!!!  I congratulate ALL of them!  Once again, CONGRATS to ALL of the Gallaudet University Class of 2013!!!  And to all of the BISON representing TEAM USA, CONGRATULATIONS...now handle your business in Sofia!!!

*The Deaflympics run from July 26th-August 4th.  For more information about the live streaming webcast, go to www.sofia2013.com and click on "LIVE" at the top of the page.  You can click on "CEREMONY" at the top to view a live stream of the opening and closing ceremonies. Thanks to Rusty for providing me with that website!!!

Monday, April 29, 2013


"Nita, you gotta go to Gally", said my brother Daryl on Easter Sunday, April 8th, 2012, almost exactly echoing the words Elissa Macias, an interpreter at my church said just 5 or 6 days before.  They weren't telling me anything I didn't already know.  The conversations were almost identical.  "I can't", I replied.  "Why not?", they both asked.  I then told them that the Hearing UnderGrad program at Gallaudet required a certain ASL proficiency and I didn't know what level was required, but I didn't have it.  Both simply responded, "Oh".  That was the end of that particular line of conversation for Elissa, but Daryl wasn't quite finished.  Now, my brother has been diagnosed with ADHD in the expert lay opinions of me, himself, and probably many others.  (Sorry, Big D, it's just part of the story.)  But I KNOW he understood when I explained the issue of  my ASL level!!!  It seemed that line of conversation was over with him as it was when I spoke with Elissa.  But after a pause, he said, "Nita, you gotta go to Gally".  It was almost like he missed my excuse, although I KNOW he didn't.  THAT was the beginning!  I already knew I had to do it, I just needed a swift kick to the rear to get the ball rolling!!!

For me, this is NOT about going to college, but about going to Gallaudet University!  I don't think I would be considering going back to finish my Bachelor's at any other school!!!  I get to be more deeply immersed in the Deaf Community than I am even now as an employee!  The question for me was never would I get in, but rather would I start in 2013 or 2014?  Let's get to it without further ado!

YES! YES!! YES!!! I am sitting in the campus library in my favorite seat.  I like to write my posts in my notebook before publishing them to my blog.  I actually wrote the previous part of this post before checking my email a few minutes ago on the guest computer.  I was so overwhelmed, I had to go for a short walk outside before coming back to finish writing.  Round 1 is done, now onto the ASL-PI (American Sign Language-Proficiency Interview)!!!