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Students learn the value of their voice

The competition is fast-paced and intense. The eight teammates stand, hands poised to hit the buzzer before the other team. The questions are tough, and cover a wide range of subjects. “Being able to speed read and having good team communication is extremely helpful. For the first time in my life I felt like my voice had value,” says Samantha Castaneda, her enthusiasm showing as she shares her experience of participating in this year’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Academic Bowl through her interpreter. Samantha is the only deaf person in her family.

She continues, “For the first time in my life I felt like I was competing on an even playing field.”

Dale Balme, Southern Oregon Educational Service District’s (SOESD) Hearing Program Manager echoes Samantha, “Competing is truly a life-changing experience for students. It’s a serious commitment and requires a great deal of dedication.” SOESD serves 153 DHH students in 13 school districts and five counties.

The competition is open to all DHH high school students who compete to earn a spot on their local teams. “I would not have considered going to college before this experience, but now I’m planning to go to a technical school for the deaf to study math, sciences, and pre-med,” shares Samantha.

Students seek various fundraising opportunities in the community for travel expenses. Avista customer Wild River Pizza & Brewing in Medford, OR is an annual sponsor of the event. “We are committed to giving back and take great pride in being a local business that supports the community that supports us,” said manager Matthew Bilyeu. The event is a sizable one; they made over 200 pizzas that day.

Learn more about Southern Oregon Educational Service District.

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