Youth Leadership Camp: Rejection of Mainstreamed Deaf

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Reclaiming the Youth Leadership Camp

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This coming weekend (May 24-27th): Youth Leadership Camp (YLC) Alumni Foundation 50th Years for the search of the Leadership experience.

When I first learned about YLC while I was an attendee for Deaf People of Color Conference in 2010 where it was held in Portland, Oregon. I was 34 years old that time. Oh, I was hurt not to know about it that long. There is need to make a CHANGE for the betterment of Deaf community.

Yes, it is a late start to learn about the most important event and once-in-a-lifetime memory for Deaf Youth and the day to celebrate hard work even as Deaf youth who went through mainstreaming system, their leadership to push for justice, is the most painful for those who does not even know anything about YLC because they did not get “privileged” information. Mainstreaming Deaf students do suffer and they have the right to explore their human rights to advocate for leadership in the Deaf community. Yet, they are shunned in the face of Deaf community. Why? Mainstreaming. It’s not their fault.

When YLC was founded in 1969, it had been focusing on Deaf families, Deaf schools, adding the fuel of Elitism, and would get information about YLC first hand before whoever Deaf students who thrive for personal growth in leadership coming from hearing families and the status of mainstreaming system would easily get rejected in the name of favoritism. Even Deaf students in Deaf schools who come from hearing families would get rejected, too.

Mainstreaming Deaf students do suffer for so long until current society we live in, the Deaf community is not same as ever, and where is the real leadership for Deaf students who were part of mainstreaming system as victims which it was never their fault to attend mainstreaming schools instead of Deaf schools?

The Deaf leadership has decisively ripped apart and did not give Deaf mainstreamed students a chance to grow has largely blamed on National Association of the Deaf (NAD)—and the leadership, scholarship, and citizenship brought up by the idea in YLC’s mission is the crisis of our time now and tomorrow. It is a serious problem.

Today and in the future ever, Deaf mainstreaming students would need help more than ever. Deaf schools are shrinking because of politics, and I do not support the idea of closing Deaf schools because they are important in educational system at every juncture.

The Deaf community’s most prominent change makers and activists join together to push for stronger idea for human change. In those stories we may see or not seen, it would reduce the problem of favoritism and elitism, and challenge our very change in equality, and challenge the very start of the leadership reform, giving Deaf students from mainstreaming system, to make all the difference in political and cultural change. It would make Deaf America stronger.

How do we make all the difference as in change? Why reject those Deaf mainstreamed students and Deaf school students from hearing families would deal with emotions firsthand? Remember, the month of May is Mental Health Awareness and it does influence them very much.

Is this also considered a bullying? From eliminating to end bullying, from ending favoritism to abolishing elitism, from reforming justice to changing the public view of the Deaf community, will it ever get equally that can rooted in fairness and personal growth in leadership? The information is very important for Deaf mainstreaming students to get stronger leadership as much as Deaf schools do; it makes Deaf community stronger only if they put it in their mind to believe in good fight.

Can you imagine that for decades that Deaf mainstreaming students and Deaf schools coming from hearing family lineage, have suffered appalling language and cultural oppression and the devastating consequences of educational and leadership sanctions?

When I learned about YLC at Deaf conference in 2010, it hit me the hardest part when it was moved to Stayton, Oregon from Minnesota in 1990, it was almost two hours drive from town in state of Washington to Stayton, Oregon, and the same 1990 was when I was 15 years old, I never knew anything about it. Why is that happening to several Deaf mainstreaming students alike like that? Language oppression?

It was the responsibility of National Association of the Deaf (NAD) who had failed Deaf mainstreaming students or Deaf students from Deaf schools coming from hearing families that so inured to actual human-to-human “compassion” by the ignorance and paradoxically blasé, judgment quality of “leadership, scholarship, and citizenship”—that they no longer readily feel the biased.

Of course, it shows that Deaf school leadership fare better than Deaf mainstreaming leadership because they did not get the same expose and experience and lack the information that they never knew about YLC. Is it their fault? Is it so invisible by the society even in Deaf community?

Deaf mainstreamed students were most and severely deprived from the information age about YLC in the past, and they are also part of the most important among them—as far as future of leadership is concerned—is the philosophy of leadership which lies away from the false dilemmas of “leadership” and is what would it be closely connected to?

It would be a good and healthy discovery one way to empower those students above; YLC might be as well as their way to make new meanings and inquiries.

What is YLC leadership is like in current climate this time in 2019?

-JT

Copyright © 2019 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in it entirely only, including this copyright message.

1988: The World in Unknown Journey

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1988 was one of the most remarkable years of the 20th century for Deaf community. All across the world, Deaf people were signing in American Sign Language (ASL), filled the streets and took up arms to arms in a way to win their freedom.

Why was it special that year? Deaf President Now (DPN). I was 14 years old, struggling my journey as the state of being Deaf in Eighth grade at a hearing school, getting in fistfights with people who were bullying me and made fun of my condition as Deaf. It was awful that year. I even got kicked out of school three days before school ends for the summer. Hearing people made nasty comments on my yearbook.

I had no idea about Gallaudet University or DPN at all. No news. Deaf program at Wy’East Junior High never talked anything about DPN. They thought it was not important to discuss about it and made sure I do not belong to Deaf community. The hearing world I was forced to live in, my hearing teacher who ran Deaf program even interpreters had campaigned against DPN by promising a pack of lies to fool Deaf students including myself in the classroom. Hearing teachers are sound-oriented. I was not. That is why I did not bond very well with any of them. Interpreters betrayed me at times, too!

It was all about blunt political agenda. I did not know anything about DPN until at least 19 or 20 years old and did not really become interested to understand why it was important to know about DPN. I had no motivation. I wonder why. Finally, around in my 30s, I grabbed a book called Deaf President Now!: The 1988 Revolution at Gallaudet University by John B. Christiansen and Sharon N. Barnartt and realized it was a game-changer. My views about Gallaudet University have changed.

Then I purchased a book; The Week the World Heard Gallaudet authored by Jack Gannon and found some interesting pictures including my mentor, Carl Schroeder who gave an important speech for students that evening. It is like a game, Jenga in which players attempt to remove blocks from a tall tower without causing the tower to collapse.

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To me, DPN was very much like that tower. Is that not a game-changer?

In 2012, I got to meet one of the leaders for DPN and had good talk about how much Carl influenced the leader. 25 years later after the DPN, I grabbed the golden opportunity to attend DPN 25th Anniversary at Gallaudet University where I attended most of the events: From Civil Rights to Human Rights, DPN Student Leaders, Comparative Civil Rights Panel, History of Women at Gallaudet and DPN, and Our Time: The Legacy of the 20th Century.

I was blown away. At the same time, I was saddened not to know anything about it or why I was not part of Deaf community that time. It was the same year that really made my life harder. Five months after DPN, I got invited to attend a camp called Camp Taloali located in Stayton, Oregon, about an hour drive from Portland —my very first Deaf camp and last as well, too. It was supposed to be filled with fun, excitement, adventure, challenge, friendship, memories and much more than has been stated in camp’s goals. It was supposed to be my Deafhood journey. It was supposed to empower my own Deaf identity. It was supposed to be a Deaf-centric camp as far as I can remember. I could be wrong.

Camp Taloali is now Youth Leadership Camp (YLC) today.

It has ended up with worst guidance on my journey forever. I remember traveling down in my father’s car going on a road trip for Camp Taloali from a small town in Washington State. The length of the distance was no more than one hour and 45 minutes, maybe two hours unless stop at mini stores for refreshments. The adventure has begun. There was a tall man with gray hair sporting mustache with a hat and he was a fast signer. I never had seen that fast before, especially from a Deaf man. The tall man was a camp director welcoming me to the camp with a warm hospitality.

Then the camp director had assigned me to a cabin to sleep for next two weeks. I was walking down to the cabin and got greeted with the camp counselor that became a bully. For the next couple of days, it has become my dark adventure wondering why my camp counselor was a mean-spirited attacking, belittling, and condescending in every sense of word. I apologize for forgetting his name, but I do remember the look.

I realized that I was bullied severely because I was mainstreamed. One day, there was a horseback riding lesson for the campers, learning how to ride and appreciate horses for their powerful shift in camper’s sense of normalcy. The lessons were done for the day, my fellow campers (they were all from Deaf schools) instructed me to stand back of the horse where a camper snapped the horse causing to kick into my stomach. The campers actually laughed for their ego-bruising task. My own camp counselor even laughed and supported them. I was in shock. It could have killed me right there on the spot. It had actually happened.

My camp counselor was drinking on duty even sporting a bottle of whiskey in the cabin where I slept. I could not understand. I tried to explain to the camp director but laughed at me and told me to get lost. I protested and got punished and made me to sit in the corner during lunchtime front of all the campers, camp counselors, and the camp director. I remember the feeling of being humiliated more than anything.

The worst part is that few hours later, I got out of a swimming pool and took shower, then realized that my basic necessities were missing: a towel and my underwear. There was nothing else to cover it up then saw my underwear was on the flagpole and became upset about it and decided to climb all the way to get my underwear back.

There were several campers including the staff that actually laughed. I was in shock. My two weeks stay was cut to one week instead and called my cousin to come and pick me up. I became a camp villain. Remember the fun, excitement, adventure, challenge, friendship, and memories theme? Not anymore. My father never got a full refund for my two weeks’ leisure. I tried to explain to my father, but he does not understand ASL and put the blame on me, so it was time for me to write a story–about time, really.

The best part of my camp experience: Getting second place for “wood” Olympics.

1988 was my unknown journey. If the DPN has made all the difference five months before I attended the camp, I thought 1988 was supposed to be a remarkable year of the 20th century for Deaf community to stage for all the freedom and pursuit of happiness that should not allow bullying at a campsite. Policing me around. Think about many mainstreamed children being manipulated in schools, too.

That was my story. My story will become their story, which is the point. It is my quest of Deafhood. Yes, Deafhood transforming my life. I was shocked that I never knew about YLC, Jr NAD, and others–today the leaders who was already part of YLC and Jr NAD in 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, they are lucky.

I learned that even moving 3,000 miles away from Pacific Northwest, the former camp director is living only one hour away from me. I have not seen the camp director since 1988 and would like to tell the director one day,

Thank you for humiliating me all these years“.

That was my 1988. At the same time, it made my life stronger. It is a story worth written and examined.

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-JT

Copyright @ 2017 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.