?> Miss Deaf America Blog

by Chelsea Tobin

Honestly, before I arrived, I was overwhelmed with schoolwork, but excited because I had never been to to Arizona. I was not sure what to expect.  I had visited the Youth Leadership Camp twice during my experiences as NAD Miss Deaf America, and would the Jr. NAD Conference be similar or how would it be different?

Upon my arrival at the Tucson airport, I saw several groups from different schools for the Deaf and joined them. It was amusing because initially, they thought that I was either an advisor or a student, so it was slightly awkward saying that I am NAD Miss Deaf America. It took a bit for them to process…

…She is not a student delegate.

….nor is she an advisor.

…Oh wow. She’s Miss Deaf America.

Then I was bombarded with questions:  “What’s your favorite place on your travels?” (Why, every state has its unique attributes, one thing is always memorable from each trip I’ve made representing NAD.) “Is your crown real?” (Yes, it is a crown!) “Will you present?” (You will see.)

The following evening, I had delicious Southwestern Mexican food at ASDB. I was able to find mild sauces, being the Midwestern… I consider ketchup, pepper and salt spicy!

At the Jr. NAD Conference, there were many different speakers with topics ranging from team building, multicultural; internet safety; Wayne Bett’s TV/Film production; time management (my topic, fitting isn’t it? Being a third year college student, farmer’s daughter, and NAD MDA! Sure hope I practice what I preach.); Gary Olsen, third executive director of the NAD gave a workshop, “Building Bridges to NAD,” Parliamentary procedure, and leadership.

The theme of the conference was “ Absorb the Power, Release the Empowerment”. The speakers came from across the nation, to empower the students from 28 schools. Isn’t the theme fitting?  The presenters gave their presentations six times that week. It was quite the experience for this newbie, yet with my second leg of my journey as NAD Miss Deaf America, it was another thing to add to my list, “What I’ve Learned Being NAD Miss Deaf America”… how to give a presentation and repeat it six times over!

There were also different events throughout this week. On Wednesday, it was Ben’s Bells as a community activity and a dinner out on Main Gate Square at University of Arizona. Ben’s Bells, http://www.bensbells.org/, where it instilled the importance of being kind to strangers as it can make a difference, no matter how small it may appear!

On Thursday, with Halloween in mind, we went to a haunted Old Tucson, and had a ball there. I stayed close to a teacher from Delaware School for the Deaf and principal from Scranton State School for the Deaf along with a student from Delaware. They had fun scaring this weakling (me). To say the least, being alone outside on my farm (remember, I live in virtually in middle of nowhere, where you can see stars shining brightly!) is enough to creep me out!

On Friday, the students, advisors and NAD people enjoyed an evening of Mr. and Miss Junior NAD pageant where Mr. and Miss Jr. NAD, Travis Zornoza of Kentucky School for the Deaf and Chanel Gleicher of Maryland School for the Deaf were crowned and will appear at NAD conference in New Orleans, Louisiana!

Check their website at http://www.nad.org/2007jrnadconfblog.

On Saturday, a day at the desert ended with banquet at a gorgeous resort, Hacienda Del Sol Guest Resort, where we were able to be outdoors on October 20th and not be chilled at lovely 74 degrees (back at home, it was 45 degrees!) and enjoyed a Southwest Mexican supper! It was simply delicious and a wonderful closure to a superb week filled with activities and empowering opportunities for the students who attended the conference.

I truly enjoyed my week being able to meet with zealous students from 28 different schools, and being able to work with them during pageant rehearsal week and during the Junior NAD pageant. It was a magnificent opportunity for me to mingle with the delegates and their advisors.

To end this note, I can truly say that our future is within our youth that we are investing our time and effort into is paying off from my observations during the week at Jr. NAD conference.

Interested to experience it yourself as a student/advisor? Please contact Jennifer Yost Ortiz, Youth Programs Coordinator at www.nad.org/contactus.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Posted on November 8th, 2007

September 13-16

The Cat and I arrived on Thursday, September 13, in the evening; Jenefer Ruedter picked me up from the airport and dropped me off at the hotel.

Friday morning (September 14), I was up and ready to give workshops to three different groups of students ranging from early elementary to high school. My underlying theme was based on SALT (get it? Salt Lake City) Self-esteem: Available? Let’s Take it! The first group was a mixture of elementary and high school students. The second, mostly lower elementary, and a third group with a few high school students. The groups were from different schools. The workshops were in the front of the gym while the activities went on in the back, so I mingled with the students, introducing myself.

The theme of the Utah of the Deaf (UAD) Conference was, “Carrying the Torch to the Future.” Youth are our future. It is our job to become visible to them, and to give them opportunities to see older Deaf adults in action.

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Here I am with a group of students wearing crowns for a follow-up activity after my presentation. This is one group out of three groups I presented to on September 14th.

I was very fortunate while I was growing up because Aberdeen, (town 45 minutes away from my farm) had Deaf social events every month. So, my family and I would go and we were able to interact with Deaf adults. They gave me exposure that is irreplaceable.

For your part, you must become visible, reach out to deaf youth, and show them that they can do it. Who knows, you may be the first beacon of light to them.

I presented at Sanderson Center, which was named in honor of Robert G. Sanderson. He promoted accessibility legislation for the Deaf population in Utah. After the workshops, I had few hours to rest and returned to the Sanderson Center for a Tribute to ASL. They asked me to be the mistress of ceremonies. I was the last performer with my Dr. Seuss ASLized piece.

It is part of Deaf culture to tell people your first and last name, your background and why you are where you are. That’s what happened in Utah! I met many Utah natives and many people who moved to Utah. It was amusing to see how many people from out of state called Utah their home. So, the underlying theme of my message, as a mistress of ceremonies, was that Utah is indeed a melting pot of American Deaf culture.

It was the popular joke of the night, maybe I will move to Utah when I graduate from college? Ah, we’ll see.

Saturday morning rolled around (September 15), and I gave a workshop to Utah’s interpreters, giving them my background with interpreting as mainstreamed student and at college with help from Trenton Marsh, the coordinator of the interpreting workshop during UAD conference. I had a chance to sit through their meeting, and was beckoned on stage to give a short story of my experiences as NAD Miss Deaf America.

I returned to my hotel room, and got ready for  awards night with entertainment presented by Keith Wann. That’s right- I was able to see his performance again. I saw him at the Iowa Association of the Deaf conference in August.

I presented the Golden Hand Award to Sorenson for their contribution to the Deaf community in Utah. But, the prestigious honor for me that I was able to present the award to David Mortensen, my host of the weekend, Kristi Mortensen’s father. He gave many years of his service, lobbying the Utah’s legislators for Deaf rights with Robert Sanderson.

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L-R: Robert C. Sanderson, David Mortensen, myself, and Utah Association of the Deaf President Robert Kerr.

On Sunday, September 16, it was a day to drive around and view Salt Lake City at its finest- during fall, when the mountains are dotted with fall colors. Kristi Mortensen took me around the city, giving me a tour, topped off with a smoothie from Jamba Juice. The view of the Rockies in Salt Lake City was absolutely magnificent. Anything taller than 7,242 feet (highest point in South Dakota, Harney Peak) is very impressive to this South Dakotan!

Thank you to the Utah Association of the Deaf for sponsoring my flight and stay during their conference. It was very memorable and enjoyable. A special note of gratitude to Kristi Mortensen and Ron Nelson for taking me from point A to point B, giving me the background of the Utah Deaf community!

Stay tuned for Jr. NAD national conference blog hosted by the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind!

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I was the mistress of ceremonies during UAD’s Tribute to ASL event

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Pictured with my host for the weekend, Kristi Mortensen

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During the Tribute to ASL event, I bumped into former Miss Deaf Utah, Camille Call-Garcia. It’s always wonderful seeing former pageant contestants., because we share the same experiences.

It has been quite the adventure this past fifteen months being the NAD Miss Deaf America. I figured you, my readers, have been updated with my travels on my blog posts and you might be interested in my personal side,  which consists of college and farm life. So, I’m adding photos of my summer as Chelsea Tobin, the farmer’s daughter, behind the identity of NAD Miss Deaf America.

The pictures below show the highlights of my summer between travels.

To my readers, thank you for your continued support of the NAD Miss Deaf America program and checking back for updates. We have nine months, as of October, to go before the upcoming NAD 2008 conference in New Orleans, Louisiana!

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During the hottest weeks of August, I helped Dad remodel the corrals that haven’t been worked on for the past forty years, using the fence post drill. Dad decided to take a picture of me actually working on the farm, specifically for this blog! So, in honor of my father, this picture is being posted!

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I was very focused, reading Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows during my youngest sister’s birthday party  immediately after I returned from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I was able to finish the book before college started for the Fall semester.

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I spent about a week cleaning my room on and off, and I discovered two tiaras from high school and recent years. It seemed fitting to put it on my NAD MDA blog

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My little cousin, Kellie, 5, was involved with Miss Midwest Pageant under Miss America program as Little Miss Midwest. She accompanied a contestant in the pageant. My aunt spilled the beans that her niece is the NAD Miss Deaf America, so I was a visiting dignitary during the program.

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My sisters and I on Rachel’s graduation day in May. That was the kick-off of my summer months filled with an online course, traveling as NAD Miss Deaf America, and helping Dad around on the farm.

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The end of my summer when I fished at the local lake near Sioux Falls. This was only the second time in my entire life I ever went fishing, in spite of being raised in South Dakota! 

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On the 4th of July my family and I went on a four-wheel adventure exactly a year after I became NAD MDA. My aunt’s family and mine four-wheeled around the farm where my Mom and she grew up. They had not been there in 29 years.

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Grandpa and I, when I was helping with the corrals.  My 81 year old Grandpa came with pop and a candy bar for an afternoon snack. Dad called it his “lunch”, because according to Midwestern vocabulary,  “breakfast” means morning meal; “dinner” means meal at noon; “lunch” means afternoon snack; “supper” is the evening meal. When I live in any city, I sometimes have a moment of confusion, trying to figure what my friends mean for “dinner”… a noon meal or evening meal?

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Once again, Dad just absolutely thought it was a novel idea for him to take pictures of me working, so I posed with the John Deere (CASE, International, etc., isn’t found anywhere on my Dad’s farm, John Deere… an entire fleet of it) fence post drill.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Posted on November 8th, 2007

August 1-5, 2007

“You can get so confused
That you’ll start in to a race
Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
And grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
Headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.”

As your NAD Miss Deaf America, I have been traveling, representing the National Association of the Deaf during the summer. I do enjoy the travels immensely; please don’t be think that I don’t… I do find humor in the above, hence the excerpts from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by our favorite, Dr. Seuss.

While being at airports, I find myself caught in:

“The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
Or a bus to come, or a plane to go
Everyone is just waiting.”

…and where many people spend the majority of their time waiting… at airports!

I was not able to steer clear of the unavoidable delays or even cancellation of flights. I boarded the plane to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and I found myself seated next to a hearing man who was willing to converse and update me , via pager,on the latest developments of our flight to Denver. I opened the memo feature on my pager and he typed in about how the plane would be restarting in five minutes. (The plane ended up being canceled.) The gentleman and I chatted and I told him that I was flying to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a Miss Deaf America trip. He thought about it for a moment, and said, “You know, I travel extensively for recreation, and I was in Ohio for a baseball game, and I saw Miss Deaf Ohio signing the National Anthem. Is she in same pageant as you were last year?”

In nutshell- even hearing people are aware of the state pageants under the NAD Miss Deaf America Pageant program!

In all of my flying experience, this was my first time flying first class on purpose! In the past, I was pushed up from coach to first class because of overbooking, but to Iowa, I flew first class, and when I landed, a limo picked me up! That was a pleasant surprise for me.

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It was my first time riding in a limo, so Bill and Nancy McClelland, owners of URrelay, had me pose with the limo driver.

Later, we toured the URrelay center, where Bill McClelland mentioned that he and his wife paid 10 percent back to the local Deaf community, sometimes through the Iowa of the Deaf. It shows the importance of having good relationships, not only to other Deaf persons, but to hearing people as well.

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At the URrelay Center. Front, L-R: Nancy McClelland, myself, Dixie Meyer and Duane Meyer. Back, L-R: Bill McClelland, Megan Wheeler, Ben and Nikki Dudley.

On Thursday, August 2nd, I was able to get together with a group of people before my afternoon workshop, “What Unites Us?”. During the gathering, I met with Katie Voss who I first met during my first engagement in Wisconsin as NAD Miss Deaf America. It is a small world when it comes to the Deaf community.

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During my presentation, “What Unites Us?”, I am pointing out how I “cherish” Deaf Culture.

I gave a workshop about what unites us as a Deaf community. We are united by our Deaf Culture; American Sign Language (ASL); Appreciation of Visuality; our History; Norms of Deaf Culture; our Response to Oppression; and our Deaf Youth.

Later in the evening, I saw Vikee Waltrip’ performance in Cedar Rapids. I had first seen her perform during the NAD conference last year. This is another example of the small Deaf world. I gave my talent performance during the intermission.

I attended the President’s Reception after Vikee’s performance in my civilized clothes (not my Cat in the Hat costume).

Friday rolled around, after getting my daily coffee and a donut from a shop across from the hotel, I attended William Ennis’s history workshop. He discussed the different perspectives of Deaf people, especially of how they perceive themselves. It was very intriguing.

Later in the afternoon, I met with Amanda Mathes and Rachel Nemmers, the current Miss Deaf Iowa. Rachel and I tried to convince Amanda Mathes to go out for Miss Deaf Iowa, to seize the opportunity, instead of waiting for it to come to her! Along with the two girls, I made friends with two brothers, 10 and 8 years old. The oldest liked to sign “sick” quite frequently. So, I wagered a bet with him, if he signed “sick” once, he would have to do five push-ups within an hour.

In the end, he did roughly 60 push-ups.

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DJ Meyer, the 60-pushups champion after realizing how often he signs, “Sick”.

Friday’s night entertainment was performed by J.J. Jones, the Deaf mime artist. He beckoned me on the stage along with few other people from the audience. During the intermission, I was again asked to tell stories about experiences in my life, so I told about the pageant experiences- coming from a farming background to high heels on the stage with a body-binding evening gown.

The audience was warmed up for the next show by Keith Wann, the CODA (Child Of Deaf Adult) performer who told stories about his upbringing, being an interpreter, while poking fun at ASL students.

During Wann’s performance, he called me up on the stage. Keith told story of when he was growing up, his teachers would take advantage of Keith’s signing abilities to teach his peers to sign. You know how younger boys and girls vary in their expressive signing skills? Boys would sign very small, and closer to their stomach while girls would exaggerate, ham it up. Keith used me as a girly example while he did the boys. So, I pranced on the stage with Keith, copying the words to the song.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 ¾ percent guaranteed.)

On Saturday night, there was banquet where URrelay presented, on a big screen, different people signing songs during the night’s dance. I enjoyed dancing with different songs because I was able to see what song was being sung and what it was about instead of complimenting the song’s bass/treble!

With Oh, the Places You’ll Go! in mind, the one-liner came and pointed out:

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

My flight from Denver to Sioux Falls was delayed, so I came to the conclusion that I CAN move mountains, but yet I can’t move airports. However, at the airport, I noticed plenty of copies of Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows around. I enjoyed my Harry Potter while the flights were delayed, so it ended up being an enjoyable wait!

Once I arrived back home, I was able to resume my summer life, working on the farm helping my Dad. More about that in next blog!

I would like to extend my thanks to URrelay, (http://www.urrelay.com/) who sponsored my time in Cedar Rapids for the Iowa Association of the Deaf conference. It was very enjoyable and memorable experience for me. Thank you for your continued support to National Association of the Deaf.

Michigan

Posted on September 13th, 2007

Kalamazoo, Michigan
“It’s a pretty good zoo,”
Said young Gerald McGrew,
“And the fellow who runs it
Seems proud of it, too.”

“But if I ran the zoo,”
Said young Gerald McGrew,
“I’d make a few changes.
That’s just what I’d do…”

-Dr. Seuss, “If I Ran The Zoo”

Why am I thinking of a zoo? Especially a zoo from the Dr. Seuss’s book, If I Ran The Zoo? Ah, Kalamazoo, or best signed as “K-Zoo” by the local Deaf community.

I arrived in Kalamazoo, Michigan on July 26 at a small airport that strongly reminded me of the Sioux Falls airport (a mere eight gates), and was welcomed by Everett Wilson, the stage manager for the pageant. I quickly learned that there were eight girls competing for Miss Deaf Michigan and six girls running for the opportunity to be crowned the first ever Miss Deaf Teen Michigan.

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Yemaya Sharp, the Jr. Miss Deaf Michigan and her friend, Marina Thelan, who ran with her during the junior pageant.

This was my first state association of the Deaf pageant that I’ve attended as Miss Deaf America.

Upon my arrival at the hotel, I was escorted to The Union for a supper with the girls. I had a chance to meet all fourteen, plus the four chaperones and few committee members for the Miss Deaf Michigan Pageant.

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Me with all contestants, fourteen in total, before the President’s Reception.

In the evening, there was a President’s Reception where I led the girls who would compete on Saturday night, around the room. We mingled with other Michigan Deaf Association (MDA) conference-goers, and one woman, Alberta, came up to me, and started a conversation where she asked me to guess her age as she proudly announced that she had just won the Miss Deaf Senior Citizen Pageant! I estimated her age to be somewhere between her late 50s and early 60s. She smiled bigger and thanked me for thinking that she is younger than she really is. It turned out that she is actually 80 years old! She was honored the next night for her 60+ years of attendance at MDA conferences.

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I led the group of girls around the room, showing the Michigan Deaf Association of what girls they will see for the next night’s pageant.

Alberta demonstrated what I want to see in the future of Deaf America, where more people are involved with their state associations, contributing their talents and leadership.

Surprisingly, Friday was a calm day.  I hosted a workshop in the morning for the girls, explaining the background of the pageant, which was already relatively familiar to the girls.  I shared my experiences with wearing an evening gown (body-binding gown), and several other aspects of the pageant.

I also pointed out some of the lessons I learned during my first year as NAD Miss Deaf America.  One of the most important things I learned was to always expect the unexpected. The Miss Deaf Michigan Queen and Miss Deaf Teen Michigan Queen will soon come to understand this lesson as well.

On Saturday, the day of the pageant, all the girls participated in rehearsals right up until it was time for the program to commence in the evening. It was a day filled with a multitude of preparations leading up to the evening’s show! I, for one, enjoyed sitting back and watching the flurry of activities, offering a few suggestions to the girls during their pageant preparations.

The amount of preparation put into the pageant by the committee members was very impressive.  The stage committee worked tremendously hard preparing the stage for the pageant’s Oriental theme.  The committee decorated the center of the stage with a majestic red Torii, which is a traditional Oriental gate which marks the gateway between the physical and spiritual worlds.  The contestants performed an opening dance that they created themselves.  It was a pattern dance, comprised of colors and movement. The co-directors responsible for the opening performance, Kenya Lowe (Miss) and Jamie Maes (Teen), wanted the girls to do something creative, and the final product proved to be just that, as the girls choreographed something very visual, original, unique and entertaining.

The girls wore masks, which symbolized each contestant being faceless in the beginning of the competition. Who will be the next Miss Deaf Michigan? Who will be the first Miss Teen Deaf Michigan? Who will represent Michigan at NAD Miss Deaf America Finals next summer? TWO of these faceless women will!

What amazed me about the Miss Deaf Michigan Pageant Association was how this program for young Deaf women had not hosted a pageant since 1999, with the current pageant director, Kenya Lowe as the last reigning queen. However, with Kenya Lowe and April Lindbergh’s joint efforts, along with a great team that supports their mission, they managed to have a successful Miss Deaf Michigan Pageant in 2005! Then in 2006, they hosted their first Jr. Miss Deaf Michigan pageant, which was co-directed by Jessica Rogers, 2nd runner up in 2005 Miss Deaf Michigan Pageant and Kendra Rose, 3rd runner up in 2005’s Miss Deaf Michigan Pageant. 

This year’s Miss Pageant was the second consecutive pageant. However, it was their first year hosting a Teen pageant co-directed by Kendra Rose and Jamie Maes, 1st runner up in 1999’s Miss Deaf Michigan Pageant.

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MDA President: Diane McKittrick

For more information and details on the Miss Deaf Michigan Pageant Association and their new reigning Queens, go to http://www.mideaf.org/MissDeafMichigan/

“WOW!” They’ll all cheer,
“What this zoo must be worth!
It is the gol-darnest zoo
On the face of the earth!”

“Yes…
That’s what I’d do,”
Said young Gerald McGrew.
“I’d make a few changes
If I ran the zoo.”

Motivated to make a difference? Is your state association of the Deaf losing members and programs for their youth? Follow the young Gerald McGrew.  The Deaf youth has the power to make a difference. It’s up to YOU to do something about it.   What kind of changes will YOU make if you have the chance to assume a leadership role in your state association of the Deaf?

Salutations!

Posted on September 6th, 2007

I arrived at Camp Taloali in Oregon on July 13. That’s right, Friday the 13th. Personally, I don’t believe the luck associated with Friday the 13th. However, I ordered a Starbucks drink at my connection airport at Salt Lake City. I ordered my typical: tall mocha frappcino. What did I get from my order? A hot chocolate. Friday, the 13th stories true? You tell me.  

During Saturday, I was able to relax, a foreign concept to me during my appearances, but it was gratifying. At night, during the Fireside chat with the campers and staff, I shared about the entire pageant experiences and my personal tid-bit of being a farmer’s daughter to Miss Deaf America. After the fireside chat, one male camper came up to me and said, “I am able to relate with you with what you just mentioned.” I asked him, “Wait, you mean the pageant experiences? That’s interesting!” He laughed and said, “No, I meant the mainstreamed experiences!”

Next morning, I gave a workshop to the campers based on seven values with an easy way to remember it: ICE is Healthful: Integrity, Courage, Enthusiasm, Happiness, Hope, Faith and Love. After lunch, the workshop activity was related to positive and negative energy, focusing on Enthusiasm aspect of ICE is Healthful. The reason why I went ahead with Seven Values is because July was the seventh month, and the first Saturday of the month was considered the “luckiest” day of the century as it is 07/07/07, so I was thinking of seven values, seven things the campers (and you, the readers) hold yourself up to.  Remember how ICE is a fragile thing. An ice cube does not last very long; it continually melts, so it’s up to you to continue keeping the ICE intact. 

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I was able to go out with Jennifer Yost Ortiz for supper on Sunday to catch up as the last time we saw each other was before I left Gallaudet for South Dakota. 

The evening program was the Mr. and Miss YLC pageant. I thoroughly enjoyed myself this year, realizing that it was my last YLC, and how Miss Deaf America is half finished, and next year’s YLC will be visited by the next Miss Deaf America! The view of Mt. Hood never ceases to amaze me from the plane. Then again, I am from good ol’ South Dakota, well known for vast stretches of land, few trees.

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Thank you to National Association for the Deaf for sponsoring my trip to Oregon for YLC. Again, it was a wonderful trip, being able to meet young students undergoing intensive leadership training. 

You also can view the YLC blog at http://blogs.nad.org/ylc.

On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool, (city of New Orleans)
In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool,
(S)he was splashing…enjoying the jungle’s (The Big Easy’s) great joys…
When Horton (Miss Deaf America) the elephant (the farmer’s daughter) heard a small noise.

-Horton Hears A Who!

What did Miss Deaf America hear, the small noise? Ah, it’s the blues jazz from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz!

A year ago when I was crowned Miss Deaf America, I was also given a free membership to Deaf Women United (DWU) and registration to attend the DWU conference in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 20-24.

Just like my other trips, this was quite the adventure, but it was also a pleasant change because I was able to attend workshops and network with other women across the nation. The experience was very rewarding.

I traveled for the most of the day on Wednesday, June 20 from Omaha, Nebraska to New Orleans. On the way there, I saw things that prepared me and my traveling friend, Christine Kraft, for New Orleans- the blues jazz statutes. After the banquet, a group of ladies and I decided at the last minute take a taxi from the hotel to the French Quarter to take a walk down Bourbon Street to see the famous street people talk about. Needless to say, it was quite the place! During the taxi ride with seven other women, we got to know each other, and had conversations ranging from ASL linguistics to what to expect from our week at DWU.

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down the Bourbon street in French Quarters

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Girls’ night out on the Bourbon street!

On Thursday, we were welcomed with an opening keynote presentation by Phyllis Frelich, who I learned is a native of North Dakota, (Midwestern girl!). The theme of her presentation was attitude; it is our choice to have a positive attitude or to have a negative attitude. Only you can make yourself happy. It was a well delivered presentation. Workshops followed and I went to a workshop, “Catfight” by Alana Beal.

Lunch followed the workshop, and again, being from the Midwest, I experienced radically different meals than back home. A typical Midwestern meal would consist of some form of beef, starch vegetable (baked or mashed potatoes) and occasionally fruit. In New Orleans, it was porridge, bacon (at least that’s what I often see during breakfast), seafood here and seafood there! Needless to say, after a week in New Orleans, I was very grateful for a good Midwestern meal. Beef.

After lunch I chose to attend, “An Open Dialogue: Children and Sexuality.” Basically, it covered the topic of sexuality, as a taboo subject between adults and children, which discourages healthy sexual expression. Well, needless to say, it was very interesting.

Dinner followed after a prolonged break. I decided to grab the opportunity to nap while most women flocked to the pool to have a poolside conversation.

While we were feasting on New Orleans-styled meal (another round of seafood…), Evon Black, native of Bytheville, Arkansas, entertained us with her perspectives of being a woman. It was an hour of laughter and relating to her stories of being a Deaf woman. I could relate to her because she was from a small town, where everybody knows everybody’s businesses. It sure doesn’t help being the only Deaf person in a small community!

On Friday, after the workshop, we prepped for the group picture. Gathering 100+ women together, chatting and getting them to smile and focus on the camera was a daunting task for the poor photographer! Then we boarded a bus to go down to New Orleans and pulled up at Mardi Gras World, the site of different floats and history of Mardi Gras. It is definitely something to check out while in New Orleans! (During next year’s NAD conference? Hint, hint.)

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One of the largest Mardi Gras float used in 2007

After Mardi Gras World, we were dropped off in the French Quarter to explore on our own. I went with a small group of friends and stopped for a chat at the coffee shop, Café Du Monde, the original French market coffee stand. Café Du Monde is well known in New Orleans for its delicious French dessert, beignets, covered with powered sugar (so good, that it’s worth getting messy with powered sugar!) and chicory coffee blended with steamed milk- New Orleans style. I ordered iced coffee from there while my companions ordered hot because they wanted to experience the true New Orleans-styled coffee.

On the last day I chose to attend a workshop presented by Stephanie Summer called “Making Your Own Financial Decisions,” for women who are uncertain about their financial decisions. For me, it’s simple… I’m a poor college student. That’s why I decided to check it out.

A box lunch was served during the general meeting where the election of new board members was held. It was gratifying to be able to witness DWU board meeting, to see the action behind the scenes. The highlights from the meeting were that DWU found a home office, welcomed new board members, and decided on the next location for conference. In 2009, it will be in Portland, Oregon! Go to http://www.dwu.org for more information about DWU. It was a very rewarding experience for me, coming as Miss Deaf America.

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Former DWU Board 2005-2007

Thank you to DWU for allowing me to come and experience the birth place of Blues’ jazz, witnessing the history of the Mardi Gras parade, and being able to meet other women that welcomed me as their own during the conference! Thank you, NAD, for sponsoring my trip to DWU conference.

During the weekend of June 16-17, I was invited to attend the Indiana Association of the Deaf (IAD) conference. When I arrived, I saw a familiar face- Brynne Kirklin, the current Miss Deaf Indiana. Brynne and her father picked me up from the airport and dropped me at her place. We had an hour to spare, so we went on a quick tour around Indianapolis, with Brynne as my tour guide. We stopped at Ritter’s Ice Cream for a snack. This beckoned for a Kodak moment.. Brynne and I took turns taking pictures of each other at Ritter’s Frozen Custard.

me-with-cat-resize.jpg
I couldn’t resist the pose as well… after drinking my
well-deserved smoothie in 100 degree Indianapolis weather!

Brynne and I got back in her air-conditioned car ( a blessing in midst of Indianapolis’s 100 degrees weather!) and drove around for a short time, before arriving at hotel for the conference. I met with the state pageant director before the final night banquet and I also met with the Master of Ceremonies of the banquet.

I gave a brief presentation about my travels as Miss Deaf America, followed by my platform and talent. In between my performances, IAD President Beatrice Pfaff presented awards to Deaf citizens for their achievements and their contributions to the Deaf community in Indiana. It was very rewarding for me to watch them be recognized and honored by IAD.

The youngest attendant was Ariel, a second grader at the Indiana School for the Deaf. The members of IAD kept commenting on how young she was and how much she had learned. It reminded me of how important it is to have a proper education to fit a child’s needs.

brynne-and-i-with-ariel-res.jpg
Brynne, my host for the weekend and I pose with 7 year old Ariel.
Will we see her running for Miss Deaf Indiana in the future? We’ll see!

To emphasize this, my mother showed me an old journal from when they discovered I was deaf. My parents took me on trips from my farm to a town 40 minutes away three times a week to provide me with language development and speech in preschool, so that I could catch up. It was a huge investment on my parents’ part, their time and driving back and forth. To this day, I can tell them that it certainly paid off!

This was similar to Ariel’s situation, from what I learned that night. She was place in the Indiana School for the Deaf when she was four years old. Her father tried to recall, “At three years old. or four years old.” Ariel piped, “At four years old, I think that is right!” Once she was in the stimulating learning environment, her signing skills really improved.

I delivered my platform presentation, Vanquishing Audism, which was well received by the IAD audience. I learned that they hosted a workshop based on Audism with two speakers from Gallaudet, the night before I arrived. Later that night, after seeing Brynne and I on stage, Ariel asked the emcee if she could get on stage and tell a story to the audience. She did hand shapes from 1 to 10. Nothing excites me more than seeing a young face eager to be on stage!

catty-ariel-resize.jpg
After my performance, Ariel crept up to the stage, when everyone 
was leaving, and tried on my gloves and hat. A Kodak moment!

Afterwards, I mingled with the members and joined them in the hospitality room, which was sponsored by Sprint, while the food and drinks were sponsored by InTRAC. I enjoyed interacting with every one on personal level. I found myself in deep discussions about farming, comparing the South Dakotan way of farming and Indiana’s method of farming. It was very enlightening!

My feet hurt, so I took my heels off during the conversation and put them near a wall. About an hour and half later, I was ready to leave, but horrors of horrors my heels were missing! It was the entertainment of the night, me trying to muster my Miss Deaf America poise, while being heel-less! Needless to say, the three ladies (see picture) knew one of the guys had taken my shoes and teased me by calling me, “Cinderella.”

After few minutes of jokes and laughter, I found my “Prince Charming” and retrieved my shoes.

I would like to extend my appreciation to the Indiana Association of the Deaf for hosting my appearance. I enjoyed myself. Most importantly, thank you Brynne Kirklin and your family for your generous hospitality, for picking me up from the airport, and opening your home to me. I appreciated it!

Things Have Not Slowed Down!

Posted on April 19th, 2007

It certainly has not slowed down since I last posted in February. Spring break and Easter break came and went… and I am approaching the end of semester finals at Augustana College in two weeks!

In meantime, during Spring Break, I was asked by a friend to make an appearance as Miss Deaf America at her Headstart school about thirty minutes from home, on Friday, March 23.

My friend created a poster of my travels, with excerpts from my blog and pictures printed out for the students to track my travels. The children were able to make the connection between the photos from my blog with the real person, me.

My mother and I were able to participate with the students in their activities in the morning including snack time. We had bread with peanut butter and milk. The milk came in a pitcher. I sat with a 4 years old girl, and poured myself milk without any thought to it until she sternly scolded me, “You are supposed to hold the cup while pouring the milk to prevent any spilling!”

Whoops.

After the milk-pouring incident, the students were very anxious to hear what my favorite color was (red), how many brothers and sisters I have (two younger sisters) and they wanted to feel the crown and sash.

I gave a short presentation about my travels with the Cat in the Hat. The Cat enjoyed himself with the company of 3 to 5 years old kids, but he sure doesn’t like the pulling and tugging of his arms! All ended well at Webster HomeBase Headstart program. Thank you for inviting Cat and me! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

mda2.JPG

Five very inquisitive pre-schoolers at Webster HeadStart. They loved my sash and crown!

April came and made its presence known when it snowed during the second week! It is only in South Dakota that it snows in April! Back home, at my farm, calving season started just after my spring break, during the surprise snowfall! However, the snow melted just in two days, creating ankle-deep mud for the cows! Whenever my father e-mailed me, he would explain about how busy he is (just like how busy I am with finals, minus helping cows with births) with multiple births in one day. The most births in one day were during his birthday on 21st with 11 calves in one day! (Two or three births a day is average.) This is another side of your Miss Deaf America, the farmer’s daughter’s side.

On April 25th, I was invited by my aunt to speak in Wheaton and Herman, Minnesota) at my cousin’s (1st grader) school. After lunch, I entered her classroom to talk with the students. I explained about my talent, platform, and where I have been, using a large map.

mda3.JPG

Lois Severson and Kim Huwe ,teachers at Webster HeadStart. The theme of Lois’s curriculum was based on Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat. See how it fits? :)

When I asked the students what they think the platform meant, one boy raised his hand and said, “It is a wooden stage, right?” Another boy piped up confidently, “That, or it can mean the ground in which plane lands on!”

Amused, I replied, “You both are absolutely right, but for Miss Deaf America, or any other pageants; it means voicing what you are most passionate about, what you believe strongly about and want to change for better.”

Then I explained about audism to the classroom, “Imagine yourselves making fun or being made fun of by other person, but that person is just like you are. That is my platform, audism with an emphasis in Deaf community. It’s not fun being made fun of.”

The first graders joined me and the other students from Kindergarten to second grade, where I read the story, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon a children’s storybook based on teasing and bullying. Molly Lou Melon is one very short girl, with awful voice, bucktooth, and very clumsy. She was teased for those qualities by a bully at her school during the first few days. But Molly Lou Melon didn’t mind, because her grandmother gave her pieces of wisdom.

I pointed out that I feel very strongly about teasing and bullying others. That is audism put simply in my perspective. Following the story, I gave a PowerPoint presentation, “ABC of Chelsea Tobin.” On each slide, there is the alphabet with signs excerpted from an online source.

For example:
A for About me with my picture on that slide.
B for Barn to show that I came from a farm, like most of the students at Wheaton.
C for Carrie, my 1st grader cousin.
D for Dad, and a picture showed me and him in front of Capitol Hill.

Simply put, it was a hit as the students did their alphabet, learning the signs for each letter. After the presentation, one Kindergarten student, a blind boy came up to me with his teacher and asked me if he could feel my hands, how I use them to talk, then I showed him how to fingerspell his name.

Later that night, I went to the Mother and Daughter Tea at a church in Herman, where 150 women and their daughters came for my presentation. My message was that you can make a difference, no matter who you are. I shared stories about my travels, what I’ve experienced, how it makes a difference for me.

mda4.JPG

After spending the day with the preschoolers, Mom and I decided to strike a silly pose together before leaving. 

Thanks for the continued support, reading this blog along with the other blogs at NAD Blog Central!

MDS and Ohio

Posted on February 11th, 2007

cats_hat.jpg

Now, what can I say
When I get home today? (from Ohio?)

I swung ‘round the corner
And dashed through the gate,
I ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!

FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD BEAT
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CINCINNATI, OHIO!

-And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street

I was finishing up my internship at Metro Deaf School (MDS) at St. Paul, Minnesota when the staff discovered Miss Deaf America in their midst. They asked me to give a presentation to explain my experiences during the pageant.

I gave a presentation and read, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! by Dr. Seuss to the first group of younger students from 1st grade to 5th grade. After the story, I explained who I am and that I am a native of South Dakota. At the end, I asked them what they learned, and one girl piped up, “I learned not to read with my eyes shut!”

That, my friend, is obvious, but very important thing to know!

I also gave a presentation to middle school students about the NAD and where would we be without NAD. (We wouldn’t have captioned programs on TV, advances in education for Deaf children, and many more!). At the end of each presentation, I performed my talent.

The former Miss Deaf America, Erin Casler wrote in her last blog entry, “’Nobody ever said that being NAD Miss Deaf America wouldn’t lead to a whirlwind existence!’” Nobody could sum up my experiences the past few weeks better than she did, as I moved from St. Paul back to Sioux Falls to continue my undergraduate education at Augustana College.

After I survived the first week of my third semester at college, I flew to Ohio on February 9-10th for two appearances at St. Rita’s School for the Deaf in Cincinnati and in the evening at Cincinnati State’s Interpreter Training Program (ITP) 3rd Annual Silent Auction.

I left early in the morning and arrived at 10:30am. Dianne Sontag and Michael Schilling met me at the airport.

cvg-airport-trio_small.jpg

I was warmly welcomed by the staff and students at St Rita’s School for the Deaf, even the TV crew welcomed me.

I was asked three questions by their local TV media relating to the school!
They asked me why St. Rita’s School for the Deaf has a good education for the deaf and hard of hearing students. Earlier, when I received the word that I would be presenting at there, I Googled and researched on the school itself. I learned that the school’s philosophy is Comprehensive Communication, which means the school will make specific accommodations to fit each student’s needs. They will provide a wide range of accommodations, for example: ASL interpreter, speech therapy, etc. to meet what the parents expect from their child. St. Rita’s is able to provide flexibility for the students to grow on their own standards.

Then, they asked me what advice I would be giving to the students. My advice was simple- to be able to expect the unexpected, and to believe in yourselves that you will be able to achieve anything.

What message you want to send to the community about the Deaf population? With a smile, I knew exactly what I wanted to tell, “I want the community to embrace the Deaf community because we are not different. We just have our own culture and our own way of communicating. It’s the attitude that makes the difference. Once I encountered a barrier, it was because of other person’s attitude toward me.”

Then, the principal asked me to sit in the front with my Cat in the Hat costume along with sash and crown, while the students signed me a song. Following the song, three students came up to the front and gave me gifts of a name tag with an ID from St. Rita’s, a nice warm fleece vest (which was perfect for below zero South Dakota weather!), t-shirt with signatures from the students all over the back along with thank you cards. I felt very welcome at the school!

I gave a presentation on the subject of overcoming barriers and how to succeed by reading The Little Engine That Could. Through the book, I reminded them that they can do it, just like a little blue engine that thought she could. Immediately after the story, I gave them my background of who I am before Miss Deaf America and pictures from my travels so far.

There was an autograph session after the presentation. It gave me a good opportunity to actually meet each student! The little preschoolers weren’t able to attend the presentation because it was during their nap time when I presented. The coordinator at St. Rita who invited me to their school- took me upstairs to the classroom and there are about twelve wide eyed preschoolers staring and uncertain what to do with this visitor dressed as a gigantic version of Cat in the Hat.

The coordinator wrapped up the afternoon at St. Rita’s School for the Deaf with meeting some staff l and showing me a bit of the facilities.
Dianne took me to her home and allowed me little over an hour to relax and ate steak supper with her husband. It was very pleasant evening, I appreciated the opportunity of home style supper away from the school cafeteria!

Cincinnati State’s Interpreter Training Program (ITP) 3rd Annual Silent Auction was my second event. The auction was a big success with humorous talented auctioneers selling the big “steals.”

I remember when I was younger, my Dad and Grandpa would take me to the cattle auctions to buy and sell their cattle. I would sit by them or in between them, trying to talk to either one of them, but they both silenced me by holding down my hands. Later, I realized that they didn’t want me to talk during the auction as with slightest movement of my hands because it would cost them for the steer that was being auctioned at the moment!

This auction was a very good experience, because I had an opportunity to auction off few items. There was a raffle as well and what amused me to no end- they raffled off an oversized stuffed Cat in the Hat toy along with Oh, The Places You’ll Go! book with my autograph on both! During a break in the auctioning, there was a booth selling a picture with me for the ITP program!

At the end of auction, the interpreters gave me a present and thanked me for attending. The gift was Dr. Seuss’ biography by Judith and Neil Morgan!

After the Silent Auction, I learned from the coordinators that this year was the best turnout with twice as much in attendance as the previous year! The money will fund the remodeling of their Language Lab with updated technology for interpreter’s training.

When I arrived back to my dorms at Saturday, February 10th at noon, I just felt simply GREAT!

Thank you for letting me to come to Cincinnati to visit St. Rita’s School for the Deaf and Cincinnati State! I enjoyed my visit there immensely! Thank you for the opportunity. This experience was such a whirlwind one for me, that I forgot to take a picture of my friend, Cat in the Hat, but he was still dazed, pazed and hazed from the experience!  Thank you!

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