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Deaf TSU student named finalist for hearing loss award

Ashley Inge
Sara Rodriguez

Sara Rodriguez, a 19-year-old Tarleton State University student, has been selected as a finalist in the 2020 Oticon Focus on People Awards, a national competition that recognizes individuals who are helping to change perceptions of what it means to live with hearing loss.

Rodriguez is honored as one of three finalists in the Student category, a category that recognizes individuals who share a passion to make the world a better place not only for people with hearing loss but for everyone through professional, volunteer, cultural and civic endeavors, according to the 2020 Oticon Focus on People Awards press release.

As an incoming freshman, Rodriguez discovered a need to improve communication opportunities for students with hearing loss on campus and in the local community. She organized an American Sign Language Club at Tarleton to spread awareness of all students, including those with hearing loss. As club president, she teaches ASL and works with club members to provide signing for extracurricular events.

“I started the ASL Club because people saw I had an interpreter and were curious and interested in learning ASL,” Rodriguez said. “That being said, I started it in order to spread awareness about the deaf culture and I teach sign. This gives a way to spread education about how to be around Deaf people properly and treat them with the upmost respect. This also allows the Deaf community to grow and people that are deaf – lower case ‘d’ because they aren’t culturally involved or know sign – can feel confident in who they are as a Deaf person.”

Rodriguez has won various leadership and service awards and passed legislations to improve closed captions.

"The captions are good but they aren’t the best,” she said. “We have 33 Deaf students at Tarleton State that we are aware of; the rest only rely on captions. They don’t get the full resources that they deserve. I passed a legislation to improve captions for all the deaf students to have equal access.”

She also proposed and wrote a new school CART policy to better support students who have difficulty hearing at a distance in classrooms or larger lecture halls. For her contribution, she was awarded Tarleton’s Emerging Leader and Leadership & Service awards.

The public is invited to cast their votes for Sara and other finalists in the Student, Adult, Advocacy and Practitioner categories at www.Oticon/FOP through Nov. 16.

The total number of votes received by each finalist will help to determine who will be the first, second and third place winners in each category.

“It is the best feeling to be selected as a finalist. It shows that all my hard work is paying off. I am not doing this to be recognized; I’m doing this because I’m truly passionate about Deaf people. I know whoever wins this award will totally deserve it,” Rodriguez said.

Winners will be announced in January.

Rodriguez is also involved in the Student Government Association, Baptist Student Ministry lead team and Alpha Gamma Delta at Tarleton. Her major is biomedical science pre-med.

“I love being an advocate for the deaf community, but it is very hard on my heart, heavy even, because some people are not wanting to learn/be educated or improve,” she added. “However, I love people and I will not give up on fighting for the rights of the Deaf community.”