- Associated Press - Saturday, March 12, 2016

CORTEZ, Colo. (AP) - Going back to school as a single parent with two kids is challenging for many.

For Amanda Schuster getting certified as a cosmetologist has had an additional layer of complexity because she is completely deaf.

To get the most from her classes, she taught her instructor and others at the Southwest Colorado Community College how to accommodate her, helping to pave the way for other students that might follow her.

“I’ve never allowed my deafness to stop me,” she said, through her interpreter Dawn Kern-Anderson.

Styling hair has always been one of Schuster’s passions, but when she decided to go back to school to get certified it required some coordination with the college.

The college didn’t have an interpreter on staff, so she got in touch with Kern-Anderson, her interpreter from high school to translate her classes. It’s a service that the college pays for.

While Schuster can read lips, Kern-Anderson makes it much easier for her to keep up with her peers.

“It makes me feel like a normal person in the classroom,” she said.

Schuster is Brenda Knapp’s first deaf student and the experience has taught her to slow down and avoid tangents in her lectures that might be hard to translate.

“You have to be very structured,” Knapp said.

While Schuster appreciates help from Kern-Anderson, she has been in the hearing world her whole life and she doesn’t need an interpreter all the time.

Her parents always pushed her to communicate in both English and American Sign Language after she lost her hearing at 14 months to spinal meningitis.

She attended Project Talk in California, which specializes in helping deaf children learn to talk, and speech therapy through the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Growing up she also excelled in sports including tennis, cheer leading, volleyball and sharp-shooting. After high school, she attended two years college in California and majored in photography.

“I never let anything stop me, although people do try,” she said.

Her long-term goal after she finishes classes in cosmetology and aesthetics is to open a salon and photography business.

But before she can take her state test to get certified, she has to complete 1,800 hours in class.

During all her time in school, she has noticed several ways the school can be more accessible and safe for deaf students.

For example, after the school held an assembly on school safety following a college shooting in Oregon, she suggested the school install TVs and more lights as part of the alarm system. These could help make deaf students aware of an emergency.

In addition, none of the other students are able to bring their phones into class. But Schuster can’t be reached through a regular telephone during personal emergencies, so Knapp made an exception for her.

But rather than being given special treatment, Schuster would be prefer the school have video phones available so she could communicate not only with her family, but with school administrators on different campuses.

“I’m trying to improve the systems, not just for me but for everyone,” she said


Information from: Cortez Journal, https://www.cortezjournal.com/

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