Video helps deaf students tell their story
WESTHAMPTON — In addition to the everyday challenges of trying to understand mumbling classmates or keep up with teachers using new words, the four deaf freshmen at Hampshire Regional High School needed to find a way to educate their peers about hearing loss.
Then everyone would feel more comfortable around each other and start making friends, said Ashley Kachelmeyer, the Clarke School teacher of the deaf who aids the four students. They needed to answer the questions their classmates were too timid to ask.
She suggested the four teens — Mikaila Fini, Weyehn Reeves, Mareo Fabozzi and Yoly Hernandez — make a fun and educational video about themselves and their hearing loss.
With a handheld camera, Kachelmeyer filmed them explaining what it is like to be deaf, everything from what hobbies they enjoy to when they lost their hearing. They told viewers not to be offended if a deaf person is staring, because they are just reading your lips. Some parts are scripted, but a lot of it is just footage of their normal lives at school, with lots of goofy outtakes. “It was a total blast,” Kachelmeyer said.
They described how a cochlear implant works: The device has an external transmitter behind the ear that sends signals to an implanted electronic receiver, that then transmits the auditory signals to the brain. “We recharge our implants just like you recharge your phones, it’s not a big deal,” Fini said in the video.
Fabozzi also had a few words of wisdom for teachers, who wear transmitters around their necks when teaching so the deaf students can hear them better. “Take it off before you go to the bathroom,” he told the camera with a mostly straight face.
The four also crack jokes and get silly through a lot of the movie, including a scene where they dance ridiculously to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call me Maybe,” before reminding viewers not to bother calling them because they can’t hear. “Text me maybe,” Fini told viewers.
At first, they planned to show the movie to the whole freshman class.
“I was nervous because I was being myself in the video. I had been really shy in class, but that was the real me,” Hernandez said. But after the screening, “everyone wanted to be our friends and other students said they wanted to see it. I felt famous.”
She went to Principal Laurie Hodgdon and asked to show it to the whole student body. Now all the students and faculty have watched it, and Claire Troiano of the Clarke School informed them April 1 that she showed the video to Clarke alumni at a recent meeting.
“A lot of them said, ‘When I went to high school, I wish I had a program like that, because I was the only one,’ ” Troiano told the beaming teens.
Kachelmeyer said that after the screening, her four students were flooded with Facebook friend requests and were more confident and able to connect with classmates; a goal as important to her as their academic success.
“If we hadn’t done it, people would probably still be wondering who these kids are,” she said. “It was great for the kids because they can be proud of their deafness and really start to own their deafness.”
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.