Samantha Ratakonda ’15
On April 12th, the MLHS Deaf Academic Bowl journeyed to the capital of the country. The team consists of Amin Randolph (senior), Iyonna Hammonds (senior), Renee Reynolds (junior), and myself, Samantha Ratakonda (freshman) along with coaches Mrs. Hewitt and Mrs. Mastroieni. After arriving at the Gallaudet Campus, which is the only liberal arts college for the deaf in the country, we took a tour of the beautiful campus. We were inspired by the statues of Thomas H. Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell, the first deaf student in the first deaf school in America. The story how sign language developed and evolved in America is just fascinating.
Photo Courtesy of Denise Mastroieni
Throughout Friday and Saturday, we competed against schools ranging from California School for the Deaf to Florida School for the Deaf. By the end of Saturday evening, we had a record of 8-1. We placed second in the northeastern region, which was delightful especially since we had three new members. Even though we did not make it to the semi-finals, we got to see exhilarating matches between the finalist teams. Despite their deficiency, the finalists were unbelievable.
Even though I am hard of hearing, the Deaf Culture was a unique experience for me as well. It was just bewildering how people could communicate and understand each other without voice. When I was watching people sign, I noticed that there was so much conversation. They were serious discussions and fun chats, which were all based on facial expression, body language, and signs. Sign language is truly a wonderful language and you would have to be there to enjoy and understand the true beauty of it. I improved my signing skills tremendously in five days, which otherwise would have taken me six months to accomplish. I immersed myself in the Deaf community that when I came back to the school, it took time to get back to my usual routine.
Besides competing, we were exposed to entertaining events at the Gallaudet Campus. On Friday Night, we took a spectacular D.C. night tour viewing the grandiosity of the monuments, the dazzling cherry blossoms, and ended with the recently constructed Martin Luther King Memorial. My favorite moment was getting the autograph of Sean Birdie, actor in Switched at Birth. Before leaving back to New Jersey, we attended a party, made new friends, and learned about the deaf culture. This was truly a wonderful five-day experience, that I intend on trying for the team and competing in the years ahead. This experience, without a doubt, will resonate throughout my high school years. Cheers to MLHS Deaf Academic Bowl Team!