"Bringing out the best in kids" is the dedicated tag line of Optimist International: an association with more than 2,900 local clubs designed to "conduct positive service projects . . . aimed at providing a helping hand to youth."
Recently, Optimist International (through their local club organization) hosted a Communication Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing patterned after their Optimist Oratorical Contest. The goal of the contest was to offer:
"an opportunity to children who are deaf or hard of hearing to present their thoughts in the community, gaining skills, which can only come from signing or speaking to a large audience" Reference
The topic that students were required to respond to was "How Optimism Helps me Overcome Obstacles." For this particular contest, candidates had to have a certified hearing loss of 40 decibels or more.
On March 29, 2012, deaf and hard of hearing students from across BC presented their responses at the Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby. West Vancouver Secondary School is very proud to share with you that grade 11 student Maria Karcz participated and earned Honourable Mention in third place! Congratulations Maria!
The contest itself is very structured; students are required to present in sign, orally, or a combination of both. They may not use props or special costumes or clothing, and their presentations must fall between 4 and 5 minutes in length.
The presentations are scored on three considerations: material organization, delivery and presentation, and overall effectiveness for a score out of 100 points. Points are further deducted from the presentation for a series pre-acknowledged penalties.
I spoke to Maria about her experience and this is what she told me:
"I participated in the contest through a collaboration between the BC School for the Deaf and Optimist International."
"My motivation to participate was that I wanted to incorporate myself more into the deaf community and meet more people who have have similar experiences as I do."
"I found that I could really relate to all of the stories told by the participants."
Maria told me about deafness and its varying degrees. In Maria's case, she has measurable hearing loss at specific decibels and frequencies, yet she is able to communicate orally, which is a credit to her determination. She described to me that her only real setback in life was that she took a little while longer to master reading and speaking, but since then she has never looked back.
Maria is a remarkable young woman who is enrolled in the academically enriched International Baccalaureate program at WVSS. Maria is not only fluent in English, but her family's native language of Polish too, as well as working on French!
During her presentation, Maria had an interpreter who signed her oral delivery. In addition, a captionist typed her response on a screen for the benefit of the audience members. I learned from Maria that:
"people assume that signing and talking is synonymous, but in fact, signing (American Sign Language) has its own syntax and grammar. A person who is speaking and signing simultaneously is really saying the same thing in two different ways at the same time!"
(Maria Karcz and SD45 District Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learning Support Teacher Terry Parson Tylka with a well deserved bouquet of flowers!)
Congratulations again to Maria in her success at this prestigious event. We are proud to have you as a part of our school!