Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – A Sign of the Times

Name: Jisel S. Ayon
From: Long Beach, CA
Grade: Senior
School: Robert A. Millikan High School
Votes: 0

Jisel Ayon

A Sign of the Times

I was in elementary school the first time I saw a girl use hand
gestures that reminded me of the secret signals a catcher sends a
pitcher at a baseball game. That’s when I began teaching myself
American Sign Language (ASL), so that I could connect with the deaf
and hard of hearing children (D/HH) at my school.

Community service has always been embedded in my core values. I was four years
old when I was told that some children couldn’t afford fast food
meals that came with “happily packaged” toys. I began collecting
unopened toys for homeless children. Through middle school, I could
always be called upon to help clean up beaches, work a 5K run, or
help children with special needs reach their activity goals. I
remember working with an autistic boy for weeks to help him jog one
lap around the track. We both cried when he eventually crossed the
finish line.

But somewhere along the way, I had ventured from ASL and wanted to find
my way back. So, the summer after my sophomore year in high school, I
volunteered in a D/HH preschool classroom as a teacher’s aide. Five
hours a day for 6-weeks, I helped young children grasp their lessons
and learn ASL. The following summer, I concurrently enrolled in an
ASL college class at night, and worked with D/HH middle school
children for during the day. This was another 6-week long class. My
responsibility was to work one-on-one with the children who needed
extra help.
I had tutored hearing students in math and the sciences before,
but with this group, my biggest challenge was trying to introduce new
ideas and explain complex concepts in silence. I felt their
frustration right along with mine. Each child absorbed the
information at a different pace, and on a different level. The most
important skills I had to acquire were infinite patience and
resourcefulness. It wasn’t until I was shown how to effectively
integrate visual aids and interactive tablets that we began

This being my last year, I decided
to organize and direct a five-day musical theater camp for my senior
project. I hosted 15 hearing children in grades four through seven
who enthusiastically learned songs, ASL, and choreography for two
hours each day. This endeavor was more complicated because it was
during the spring semester, and I was the one in charge of every
aspect, but our final performance was spectacular.

Gaining the skills to work with diverse groups of children has been very
rewarding. Looking forward, I see myself helping those with speech
and hearing challenges overcome barriers in the areas of
communication, comprehension, self-expression, and inclusion. I will
enter the Speech Pathology and Deaf Studies programs at CSU
Northridge. During my summer breaks, I intend to design creative and
affordable ways to involve young children in the arts. I’d like to
think that ten years from now, I’ll be asked to mentor them through
their service ventures and celebrate their personal rewards.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".