Fresno State on April 28 commemorated the 200-year anniversary of the opening of the first American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.
A community event was held in the North Gym, which included a “Saturday Night Live”-inspired performance.
In addition, Roberta Cordano from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. was a keynote speaker. Gallaudet University is a university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
“On the East Coast, in Hartford, Connecticut, last week, they had a rather massive event,” said Janice Smith-Warshaw, director of the deaf studies program. “I thought it might be a good idea for us to have an event like that here.”
Smith-Warshaw said that when Cordano became president of Gallaudet University, people told her that they looked similar.
“That led me to think that I could do a ‘Saturday Night Live’ one-woman show acting as Roberta Cordano,” Smith-Warshaw said.
Rosemary Wanis, who teaches in the deaf studies department at Fresno State, feels that it is crucial to recognize deaf history.
“I feel so empowered because this is my history. This is 200 years of documented history that if it had not occurred, I wouldn’t be a teacher,” Wanis said.
A group of middle school students performed a skit that showed a timeline of deaf history throughout the years.
Cordano gave a presentation about deaf culture. Afterward, attendees were allowed to ask questions.
“[For] deaf and hard-of-hearing students who come to the annual event, this is their first time to see someone of this status, of this influence in the community in person,” Smith-Warshaw said.
Kristyn Bernal, who is a Fresno State graduate student in the deaf education master’s program, said that because the event is open to anyone, it is a great way for people to learn more about the deaf and hard of hearing community.
“It’s super educational for those who have deaf and hard of hearing children,” Bernal said.
Smith-Warshaw feels that deaf individuals are as distinct as any other group.
“Deaf people have their own language and their own culture, just like someone from the Hispanic community,” Smith-Warshaw said.