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Commission Gains Two New Board Members

Introducing Xavier Arana and Elizabeth Merz

12/21/2018 10:00:18 AM

Two photos, side by side. To the left is Elizabeth who is standing outside, facing the camera and smiling. To the right is Xavier who is standing in front of the State Office Building, smiling, and facing the camera.

The Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Minnesotans is pleased to introduce two new members to our board. They were appointed by Governor Mark Dayton. The members are:

Xavier Arana, Deaf, fluent in American Sign Language, English, and Spanish; strong background in project management, mechanical engineering, and process design

Elizabeth Merz, hard of hearing herself as are most of the women in her family; has served as a Guardian ad Litem for children, an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, and an elected school board member

"The Commission strives to gain diverse perspectives as our senior board members retire and new board members join. We are thrilled to welcome the addition of Xavier and Elizabeth's valued insight and look forward to their continued involvement with the commission," said Chair Jason Valentine. 

Please join us in welcoming Xavier and Elizabeth!

Xavier Arana, At-Large Member

Xavier Arana is a Deaf Latino from Nicaragua. At the age of ten, with no knowledge of ASL and English, he and his family moved to Miami, Florida then later relocated to Houston, Texas. Xavier proceeded to attend Rochester Institute of Technology where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering technology. Currently, he lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his family.  Xavier works as a Senior Lead Mechanical/Process specializing in designs related to HVAC, plumbing, and piping for various type of food plants and large buildings. In his free time, he likes to cook, travel, scuba dive and spend time with his family. 

"The work, the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans do, is important because their work helps to eliminate all different kinds of barriers-new and existing, from education to public access. Public access is important for airports, parks, shopping malls, and anywhere that hosts special events for people to enjoy. We have a lot of things we can work on. For example, proposing accessibility improvements for both sides, not just for “owners.”   I am very excited to be a board member because I enjoy doing work that benefits all. I also really like learning new things and experiencing new things. I hope to see improvements in the lives of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans.  Together as a community, we stand united to support Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans!” ~ Xavier Arana

Elizabeth Merz, NorthWest Representative

Elizabeth Merz is from a hard of hearing family including her grandmother, mother, sisters, daughter, cousins, and niece. She has lived and worked all over the U.S. and in Florence, Italy. When her daughter was young, Elizabeth and her husband bought a farm in west central Minnesota, expecting to retire. Life had other plans. Elizabeth became an advocate, which led to serving as a Guardian ad Litem for the 8th Judicial District. Some of that work was with children and parents who were deaf or hard of hearing. She also served on her school board for 12 years and represented her district on the regional 9-school Special Education Cooperative. Elizabeth has a BA from the University of Iowa in Iowa City and an MA from Middlebury (Vt) College. She taught at the University of Iowa, the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, and Concordia College in Moorhead. Her children live in Raleigh, NC and Minneapolis. 

"I appreciate the opportunity to work on ensuring that the deaf and hard of hearing and deafblind children and adults in Northwest Minnesota have access to the same programs and services that are available in other parts of the state, and to expand those services in spite of the great distances and required travel. Where policies or statutes or funding prevent that, I’d like to be part of the team working to fix them." ~ Elizabeth Merz


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