Will Participate as a Young Leader in Pennsylvania and National Conferences
Danah Richter, a junior social work major at Carlow University, has been invited to participate as a "young leader" in the Pennsylvania Society for the Advancement of the Deaf (PSAD) conference to be held in Pittsburgh in September 2013, and the National Association of the Deafs (NAD) National Leadership Training conference in Omaha, Neb., in October 2013.
The invitation to participate in both conferences came after two PSAD board members read Richter's application for a scholarship through PSAD. Impressed by her application, the PSAD board members asked her if she would be interested in becoming a young leader to represent PSAD at the conferences.
"I believe both conferences may teach me to advocate for Deaf people as well as to advocate for myself," said Richter, who differentiates between "deaf" with a lower case "d," referring to the condition of being non-hearing, and an uppercase "D" that refers to the Deaf Culture. "I am hoping to learn about the leadership role in the Deaf community in the United States and also in international communities. Almost 29 million Deaf people live in America and about 300 million Deaf people live in the world. Our 'Deaf' voices grow louder."
The theme of the NAD leadership training conference is "Defy Expectations; Achieve Feats," and Richter is doing her part to live up to that slogan. She has been named to the Dean's List both semesters in the 2012-2013 academic year, and she and another student, who also is deaf, developed and presented an information evening in April for the Carlow community titled: Toward Connecting Better with our Deaf Culture Diversity Initiatives Presentation. Currently, Richter is working on research for presentations she hopes to make at the first annual University of Pittsburgh Disability Experience Conference.
"Danah is a student who is dedicated to success," said Bridget Ponte, director of the Center for Academic Achievement at Carlow University. "I believe she can accomplish anything that she puts her mind to."
As part of her studies, Richter has taken an independent study course for the past three years. The focus of the course is Standard Written English for students whose first language is American Sign Language (ASL). Often times, students whose first language is ASL can have problems comprehending and writing Standard Written English.
"Communication and writing English as a second language are the most difficult things for me as a deaf student at a hearing college because no one knows how to communicate with my first language ASL and writing in English was an extreme struggle for me to learn, said Richter, who is from New Kensington, Pa. "When I was on the campus tour at Carlow, I saw the ability to be part of the Carlow community that gave me a hope to succeed through all the challenges. I chose Carlow to give myself challenges and prepare myself for the real world after I graduate college."
A recent challenge Richter gave herself was to present a paper she wrote at Carlow's Scholarship Day in April 2013. Her paper, "Studying Deaf Students in Higher Education," chronicled her early education experiences, as well as her more recent experiences as a deaf college student in a predominantly hearing setting, as a social work case study. Richter presented the paper in both poster session form and as a presentation with a question and answer portion for faculty and students at the annual Scholarship Day.
"[Communicating and writing English] was an issue that Danah recognized in herself," said Jackie Smith, a writing consultant in the Center for Academic Achievement and the Disability Services Representative at Carlow. "Danah has an amazing attention to detail and a mature self-determination. She is willing to ask for help and to help others when needed."
Her willingness to help others extends to opportunities outside of the Carlow community. She has been volunteering as a support service provider to work with deaf and blind clients at the Western Pennsylvania Association for the Deaf-Blind, and she also is a representative for the Disabilities Service Advisory Group at Carlow. On the university's annual Mercy Service Day, Richter volunteered to help teachers and children in the Early Learning Center at Carlow better understand Deaf Culture.
Being invited to represent Pennsylvania and by extension representing both Carlow and Pittsburgh is just one more step in helping Richter achieve her goals.
"I always search for more challenges," said Richter. "My next destination is working with children with Autism because I find Autism to be a very interesting topic to work with. In five years, I hopefully might graduate with two master's degrees: one in social work and a second in mental health counseling at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. In ten years, I hope I will be able to work with hearing and deaf children and deaf adults in mental health services and/or organizations."
If Richter's academic career at Carlow is any indication, she is well on her way to achieving her goals.
"Danah wants to bring Deaf Culture into the hearing world so more people will be able to understand exactly what it is," said Smith.