April 21, 2016

NAD Mag: Meet the Jr. NAD Ambassadors 04/21/16

NAD Mag Editor's Note: The 25th Biennial Jr. National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Conference was held in Orlando, Florida, November 11-22, 2015. Isabella Graves of Nebraska and Ahmed Mahmoud of RSD attended as delegates from their schools. During the conference, they participated in the Jr. NAD Ambassador competition and were chosen as the finalists. We hope you enjoy getting to know them!

Ahmed Mahmoud is a Junior at Rochester School for the Deaf

My name is Ahmed Mahmoud and I am a junior at the Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD). I joined RSD Jr. NAD chapter in the fall of 2015. I serve as the Sergeant-at-Arms for my chapter. It gave me an opportunity to attend the Jr. NAD Conference as a delegate this past fall.

NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum (center)
with 2015-2017 Jr. NAD Ambassadors
Isabella Graves and Ahmed Mahmoud.

I moved to Rochester, NY from Egypt when I was 9 years old. I'm the only deaf person in my family. Sometimes I had difficulty communicating with my family and I felt isolated. My family tried their best to stand up for me and to communicate with me in any way they could. I was frustrated throughout my years in mainstreamed schools as the only deaf person. It was difficult to participate in the classes and sports I enjoyed. As a very shy person, I had a hard time socializing with the hearing students and felt embarrassed because of being the only deaf student. I had no friends and I was alone for five years, and it created a bad habit of not participating due to lack of encouragement and confidence in myself.

I'm so lucky to have my mother who encouraged me to visit the Rochester School for the Deaf. I felt nervous socializing because it was the first time in my life meeting with deaf students, due to my lack of knowledge of deaf culture. This moment changed my life and I developed my American Sign Language (ASL) skills and knowledge of deaf culture, as well. RSD is my second home, full of fun, friends and learning. My friends and advisors convinced me to join Jr. NAD. This led me to new opportunities attending as a delegate to the Biennial Jr. NAD National Conference in Florida! This event that has impacted me the most in my life. I have experienced so many beautiful things, such as meeting new friends who have different strengths, interests and are so diverse. Meeting each other has made us grow stronger and smarter.

I really enjoyed learning a lot from the workshop about how to find ways to solve problems when we are out in the world and becoming a better leader in the future. This also helped me build my self-confidence and motivate me to participate a lot of activities.

The reason why we were selected to be the jr, NAD Ambassadors was because of our presentation on a social issue that we feel is important to the Deaf and hard of hearing community. I presented on language access for deaf foreigners in deaf schools. My solution was to be a mentor and to create a mentorship program. This was based on my own experiences coming to school in the United States from another country. This is what I hope to accomplish as a Jr. NAD Ambassador. I want to share with the deaf and hard of hearing students and bring my own experiences and ideas to them. Knowing my experience may help make them feel more welcome in their schools and to be successful in the future as well. I truly believe that they can do as they desire, and stand up for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Isabella Graves is a Junior at Seward High School, in Seward, Nebraska

My name is Isabella Graves and I am a junior at a mainstream school in Nebraska. I attended mainstream schools my entire life. Currently, I am involved in quite a few activities at my school including the Drama Club and the Speech Team. Other than school, I have two jobs and I am an active member of Jr. NAD. I recently became the secretary of my chapter, which led me to serve as a delegate at the Jr. NAD National Conference in Orlando, Florida.

This experience expanded my knowledge of deaf culture, but also gave me a different perspective in life. I met so many beautiful, creative people that I truly consider as friends because we are all passionate about the same thing and we were able to connect over that. And to be honest, I haven't been able to connect with kids my age in a real long time! It was truly an amazing experience to get together and not judge one another. I felt like I was treated as an equal and I never wanted to leave. The workshops were astonishing! I found myself really focused on what the presenter was saying and I lost touch with reality. I was THAT focused.

As an ambassador contestant, I felt highly motivated to carry out my platform which was pointing out the importance of Jr. NAD with those who are hard of hearing or deaf in mainstream schools that have no access to it. I remember the days when I had no clue about Jr. NAD and how I struggled. It was a dark time in my life and I had no hope due to years of bullying and loneliness in mainstreamed schools, because they didn't understand me. Just when I was about to end my life for good, I was saved by Jr. NAD. This is why I want students who felt like I did to have the opportunity to join before it's too late.

But how? This is what I hope to accomplish as an ambassador. I want to give mainstreamed students who are like me an opportunity to join Jr. NAD. So far, I have set up meetings with hearing parents who are curious about what to do with their deaf/hard of hearing children. I use this opportunity to encourage their children to join, to learn what it's like to be successful, confident, and determined to stand strong. We deserve to have a voice!

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