By: Sarah Snyder
HOWARD COUNTY - Anywhere else they would be a minority, but at one Howard College campus, they are right at home. This year, the Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf (SWCID) is creating some brand new opportunities.
It looks just like any other college classroom, but at this Big Spring campus, the language isn't spoken.
"SWCID is the only community college program designed for deaf and hard of hearing people all over the country," Mark J. Myers, Provost at SWCID, said. "Well, really, the whole world."
SWCID provides career and technical training for deaf students. Right now, they have more than 100 on the roster with about 50 faculty and staff trained in sign language.
"Other community colleges have programs for the deaf, but they're mainstream where they provide support services and the deaf people are a minority," Myers said. "This is a campus that was created with no boundries for deaf and hard of hearing. Direct communication between students and faculty in and out of classrooms."
And for the first time in its 30 year history, this October the College won't just hold classes - they are developing a brand new athletic program giving deaf students the chance to play sports.
"We're working on creating a new basketball team for the boys, and a new volleyball team for the women," Myers said. "A lot of the students really want to be able to play competitive sports and so we're hoping the new P.E. instructor will be able to help us establish a strong athletic program."
One student says coming to SWCID changed his life.
"In a hearing class with an interpreter, the students are saying things, I look around, I don't know who's talking, I miss what's going on," SWCID student, Ryan Sims, said.
Ryan Sims is a general studies student from Dallas. He says SWCID gave him a wonderful gift.
"We don't have to feel like we're inferior," Sims said. "Before when I was mainstreamed, I wouldn't raise my hand with hearing students, I was afraid, I was embarassed. I felt like I wasn't equal. Now I feel like they are my peers and it's great. I don't feel like there is any conflict with my learning process now."
Ryan graduates this May and plans to pursue a career in either sociology or theater.
"All the information that I got from the teachers, the perfect communication with my peers," Sims said. "When I leave, I won't have that kind of opportunity again. It's a perfect world!"