–by Svetla Tomanova
On a late October day, Corporate Landing Middle “opened its doors” for the inaugural “Deaf Night at School,” which was hosted by the school’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing department. The event was inspired by the desire to build community, promote awareness of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) organizations and resources, share Deaf culture and encourage students to consider careers in DHH fields.
“The DHH students are as integral a part of our school as are any other students,” said Principal Robert Yoshida during his remarks. “You can see how quickly relationships blossom between the students.”
“We need the hearing world and Deaf/Hard of Hearing world to be able to mingle and interact with one another in events such as this,” said Marcial. “I want my daughter to be proud of where she came from.”
Led by sixth, seventh and eighth graders, the organizers offered a cotton ball toss, door prizes and an enjoyable family atmosphere to over 200 participants. The event was open to all Virginia Beach City Public Schools students and families. Volunteers from the National Junior Honor Society assisted with the setup.
Families visited informational booths from the following organizations that offer free resources: Virginia Department of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH), Office of Family and Community Engagement, Families to Families, Technical Assistance Center for Children Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB) Outreach, Jefferson Lab, division’s Audiology and Interpreting Services offices, Colley Family and many others. They learned about DHH organizations and resources from all around the state too. They played games led by the American Sign Language (ASL) and Service Club members. And they talked to one another while having fun.
“It is important that the Deaf community has access to resources and stay supportive of one another,” added Marcial.
That’s precisely what brought Kathryn Russell and her family to the event, she said. In addition to gaining more resources and interactions, Russell wanted to see how her daughter, who is a DHH student at Corporate Landing, “feels from it and what she will gain from tonight.”
A couple of Bayside High School students who were interested in ASL interpreting careers came not only to show their appreciation to the Deaf community but also to explore the resources – as anybody else.
The first guest speaker, Eric Raff with VDDHH, had this appeal to the students: study sign language diligently and get involved in volunteering.
“Growing up I had no interpreters, no note-takers, no technology,” said Raff. “Today, you have video relay services offered by VDDHH that will enable you to communicate with standard telephone users.”
Speaker Asia Riedinger Heath offered these five ways of communicating with Deaf people: the most universal way is to write, use your phone note app, express yourself by gestures, lipread, and if you know any sign language – use it.
Before COVID upended our reality, Brita Hampton, department chair of the DHH program, was instrumental in building “Deaf Science Camp” at Jefferson Lab. She also partnered with VSDB Outreach department to host “Science Days” around the state. The idea for “Deaf Night at School” was formulated after those two initial events. COVID halted Hampton’s plans until this past summer when she started planning it in earnest. When asked if she plans another “Deaf Night at School,” she spoke categorically: Yes, most definitely there is one coming up in spring and another one in fall of 2023.
We all walked away energized and with an eye to the next event. Stay tuned!
For information on the next “Deaf Night at School,” please reach out to Brita Hampton at Brita.Hampton@vbschools.com.