Leading the Bison Charge!

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)!!!

Friday, April 19, 2013


Bet anything that title caught your  attention!!!  Now let me explain before you start spreading dirty, untrue rumors about my family or go into fasting and intercessory prayer for my brother's soul! 

This particular incident happened after I had been learning ASL for about 1 1/2 months.  It was a beautiful day on November 8, 2009 (yes November in Washington DC), so we had class outside.  There were only about 5 of us in this particular session.  We were sitting in front of Ebenezers Coffeehouse just sharing stories.  I don't remember exactly which story I was telling, but I DO remember it involved my brother.  I remember that much because instead of using the sign for "brother", I got lazy.  The sign I used was actually "alcohol".  Now, this was NOT a Freudian slip.  My brother is NOT an alcoholic.  (He better not be, he's an ordained minister!!!)  My church just happened to be in the "Ritual" series and Pastor Joel had just preached on confession that weekend.  Kari said I need to confess alcohol.  (Regardless of my behavior, I PROMISE you that I don't drink as of the writing of this post...even if my good "friend" Zims is doing her best to change that!!!) 

Remember, unless you  know what you're doing, NEVER try to shortcut ASL!!  This is a lesson I'm sure I will have to learn again and again!  At the end of the day, we all make mistakes.  So let's all be open to learning and help those who are coming behind us and most importantly KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR!!!

*This post is dedicated to my brother, Daryl, who ALWAYS has my back!!!  He encouraged me to apply to Gallaudet University and listens to (and understands) my ADHD like no one else!  Love you BIG D!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013


I have often said that "God had to trick me to learn ASL, but I'm SOOO GLAD He did!!!"  That rings true as much now, maybe more so, than ever before!  I have to thank a few more people, though!  I have just submitted my paperwork and video essay for admission to Gallaudet University's Hearing UnderGrad program in the fall of 2013.  I must say, I am nervous about my chances of being accepted, but I HAD to apply!!!  I would rather be denied than not have tried!  I must thank Jon Vaughan and Kari Olney for writing recommendations for me!  ( I think so anyway, I didn't actually read the contents of them.)  I also thank Kari for recording my video essay which I may have the guts to post at some point.  YOU ROCK DEAF MOM!!!  I also have to thank Zims and the Cool Crazy Chica for helping me prepare for my video essay.  Ladies, I know you felt like I was too hard on myself, but I REALLY DO appreciate your help!!!  And I can't forget my signer friends and each of you who reads this blog.  I REALLY want your comments on this post...good, bad, or ugly!!! (Don't worry, I added most of the exclamation points and caps for the blog version.  YOU KNOW HOW I ROLL!!!)  And I will let you know the decision, accepted or denied.  Here is my written admissions essay.  You know I tend to be wordy, so it's gonna take a few minutes to read.  Let's dive right in, shall we!

Persistence!  Passion!  Loyalty!  If the question is what qualifies me to be a Hearing UnderGrad student at Gallaudet University, then these three qualities are my answer in true Jeopardy fashion.  When I read the email informing me this was to be my topic, I immediately thought of my persistence.  Passion followed within a few seconds, maybe even a minute or 2 later.  But, I needed a third.  I remember that a true essay or composition must have at least three body paragraphs.  Plus, three gives it a feel of completion.  It took all of several minutes, maybe 5 or so, for me to think of loyalty.  I'm not sure why, because my persistence and passion for ASL and connecting with the Deaf Community are unrivaled in comparison to other areas of my life.  However, loyalty, seemingly permeates every corner of my existence.  Enough with the introduction.

When I began learning ASL, I had no idea how fast I would learn the language.  I knew it was an entirely different language than English with a different grammatical structure.  My only ASL knowledge was the alphabet and a few other signs.  In the 3 years since my ASL birthday (September 20, 2009 was my first ASL class), I have struggled to learn ASL.  I remember sitting in class being completely lost as to what my teacher was saying and everyone else was laughing at her story.  Yet, as far as I know, I am the only one of that class who is still deeply involved in the Deaf Community.  I was also the only one to never miss a class that semester.  And my teacher has become my good friend.  I have friends with a smaller vocabulary of signs, yet they communicate better than me because they are more visually oriented.  Yet, I persist.  At this point, I socialize almost exclusively with signers.  Though I know that I will be in positions where I am left out of the conversation because of my sign skills, I persist.  Why, you ask?  That would lead me to explain my passion.

I consider myself to be a person of only a few, yet deeply held, passions.  Of course, ASL/the Deaf Community/Gallaudet University is also a passion.  For me, those three things are inseparable.  You must understand why I started to learn ASL to fully understand my passion for it.  I had no desire to learn ASL before meeting Kari Olney who had just graduated from Gallaudet in the summer of 2009.  I found out she played basketball there and said we should play through an interpreter.  Realizing I could not trash talk her, I decided to take her ASL class to learn how.  I ended up falling in love with ASL and the Deaf Community.  In the 2010-2011 season, I enjoyed volunteering as a timekeeper at several MSSD basketball games.  I enjoy helping Deaf members of my church become more involved.  I jumped at the opportunity Jon Vaughan, head Gallaudet athletic trainer, gave me to volunteer at the sports camp this summer.  I then continued when Mariko Kobanawa, another athletic trainer, said I could stay on during the school year.  It was actually a little bittersweet when I became a paid staff member in the same position.  Why?  Because there is something so freeing about doing something because you love it and for no other reason!  I LOVE my my job, though it's part time and minimum wage.  I loved it when I was a volunteer!  I love blogging about my ASL experiences, including, maybe particularly, the AWKWARD ones.  I refer to signers as "my people".  I have enjoyed studying Deaf Culture in the Merrill Learning Center over the last several months.  And I love the idea of going to Gallaudet University and majoring in PE with minors in Athletic Coaching and Deaf Studies.  What can better prepare me to coach hearing and Deaf kids together to help build bridges between the Deaf Community and the hearing world.  All of this because of passion and I HAVEN'T REALLY EVEN GOTTEN STARTED, YET!!!  How do you know this is NOT a passing phase?  Besides the fact that I am persistent when faced with obstacles, I am INTENSELY LOYAL!!!

I persist with my ASL because of my passion.  However, I am not a particularly persistent or passionate person in most areas of my life besides ASL/Deaf Culture.  Loyalty seems to ooze from every cell in my body, however.  At 34, I have only ever had one NFL team, the Redskins.  That has been for more than 25 years.  I grew up in New Carrollton, Md and still don't like to mention the city that was our Boys and Girls Club arch rival.  I pride myself on helping my friends and am disappointed in myself when I fail to do so, even if they don't think I did anything wrong.  I have NOTHING without my loyalty!!!  I can't imagine my life now without the Deaf Community.  My goals in terms of career and ministry have been altered in large and small ways, because the Deaf Community is now the focus.  My blood runs BUFF AND BLUE!!!  I have supported Gally athletics beginning with Pink Day in 2010.  I even try to get my friends (mostly Gallaudet graduates and students) to join me at games.  A lot of good things have happened recently at Gallaudet, for instance a new dorm utilizing Deaf Space.  I see a lot of good things to come, such as using the parking lot across 6th St. to meet student's food needs while connecting with the larger community.  No matter what though, as with my beloved Redskins, my loyalty remains through good and bad.

So there it is.  My answer as to why I am qualified to be a Hearing UnderGrad student at Gallaudet University.  I do realize that my story and perspectives may not be the norm.  My point exactly!  I have something unique to offer.  My support for Galladuet will not waver, regardless of the outcome.  Hopefully, you will also realize my admission will best prepare me to continue to give back to Gallaudet University and the Deaf Community at large.