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Part 4: Community Spotlight with the University of Minnesota Deaf College Bowl Alumni

A four part interview series

5/23/2020 11:21:10 AM

The 2018 team surrounding the metal life-size Goldy Gopher statue standing next to a solid maroon M. Autumn Moder and AJ Temple sit atop the M; Andrew Weber lays out on the ground in front of the M; and Zakaria Einab stands next to Goldy.

The University of Minnesota Deaf College Bowl (CoBo) program was established in 2011 as a project under Deaf Student Ambassadors program. The team consists of four undergraduate players, two coaches, and program advisors from both U of MN Disability Resource Center and the Interpreting & Captioning Unit. The student and alumni-led program continues to participate in the Deaf College Bowl competition during the biennial National Association of the Deaf (NAD) conference which they have done since 2012. The NAD Deaf College Bowl competition began in 1988 with three schools participating (Gallaudet University, Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute of the Deaf (RIT/NTID), and California State University, Northridge (CSUN). In 2012, the competition welcomed non-traditional schools to join the national competition.The U of MN team is one of the four non-traditional schools that have joined Gallaudet, RIT/NTID, and CSUN in the game of brains.

With the current climate regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 National Association of the Deaf conference has been cancelled, and thus so has the 2020 CoBo competition held during the conference. We have reached out to the alumni of the past four teams that represented Minnesota in the years 2012-2018 to share their experience, and how being part of CoBo has shaped their futures.

Due to the length of this interview, a portion of the interview will be released over a period of four days. This is part four of four. 

The Teams:

2012: Justin Barlow, Tjay Middlebrook, Shawn Vriezen, John Wilson.

2014: Maggie Bangert, Kyle Johnson, Johanna Lucht, John Wilson.

2016: Maggie Bangert, Kyle Johnson, Hennah McCoy, AJ Temple.

2018: Zakaria Einab, Autumn Moder, AJ Temple, Andrew Weber.

Part 4:

Questions 9-10 and where they are now.

What advice do you have for Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing students considering college plans?

Justin: Go where your heart leads you, and seek tons of advice wherever you go. Never hold back.

Johanna: Step out of your comfort zone, otherwise you'll be forever trapped in the box, missing out on things.

Maggie: Think about if you want to go to whether it is a 4 years college or a 2 years college - don't be ashamed to go to trade school. Ask questions! That's what those staff at colleges are here for. Apply to as many schools as you can. Take a look for scholarships opportunities, ask around and they really do have scholarships for everything you can think of. Pro tip: when you are accepted to a school, ask for another tour and ask for specific access accommodations that you need to see how they do, that is how you know what you would have to deal with for that school.

John: Know what you need from a college. Do you want a big school, or a smaller school for more personal connections with peers? If you want a deaf community experience, look for local Deaf* community events. Ask to meet with a current Deaf* student if possible. Look at all of your options and don’t be afraid to look at hearing colleges locally. Pay careful attention to how the colleges respond to accommodation requests when visiting colleges. That’ll often give you a good indication of their services for attending college.

AJ: Don't be afraid to consider the University of Minnesota and other state colleges or even trade schools. College is all about educating yourself and preparing for whatever path in life you want to explore.

Zakaria: I encourage students to visit college campuses, check them out, see what they offer. It’s hard to think about it, but once you see for yourself, it’s easier to see what you want to do, and how you can do it. See what’s expected, and make decisions about your future. Go out and visit them!

Shawn: Definitely consider the U. It's big but it is easy to find a place to be and a place to grow. The access to interpreting and captioning services that extend far beyond simply having access in class goes a long way. I know I was able to participate in pretty much anything I wanted to while I was there and not having to worry about accommodations. Many of us participated in the Social Justice Leadership Retreats as well as Strengths and Engagement Student Advisory Board as well as Quidditch and movie nights. You name it.

TJay: Get involved with student groups - they will connect you with amazing people in the long run.

Final Words of Wisdom:

Andrew: The whole CoBo experience has taught me that it's really an enriching experience that I hope more people get to go through, especially from Minnesota. Minnesota and the U of MN are great places that are awesome environments for a person to grow in a professional and personal manner. Go Gophers!!!!

Johanna: Whenever you see AMAZING opportunity, don't be an idiot and go take it! I ignored NASA internship application email until finally on the 3rd email I applied, I got an internship. And now here I am, a full time engineer at NASA. I can't imagine what would have happened if I ignored that email again!

Maggie: Take every opportunity you can, even though it may cost money - think about if you will regret it or not in the future. Especially for study abroad programs. Connect with your teachers/co-workers/professional/peers, you never know what they will bring to you in the future.

AJ: College is an excellent tool for further education, but don't feel pressured to go if you're not sure about what to do after high school. There are other options than just college like trade school, unions, direct apprenticeships, and more! College will be very expensive if you don't know what you want to do.

Zakaria: Please, whether you are a high school student or college student, or anyone really, if you are offered something, like CoBo and going to NAD, please, please, seize that opportunity to do it. You never know what those opportunities will bring you until you seize them and experience it for yourself. For me, I went to UMN, and was invited to join CoBo where I had no idea what to expect. Looking back, it was the best thing I did for myself - I met folks who became lifelong friends, strengthened my education and study skills, exposed me to the greater Deaf community, and it really brought me out of my shell. Seize those opportunities!

Shawn: I highly advise going to the U and making the most of your experiences and what there is to be had there. UMN CoBo team is one of those things. Looking back on all the fond memories is well worth it. Time flies even though it's all been immortalized as we replay the scenes in our heads.

TJay: Network, network, network. That’s how you’ll ever go far in life.

Autumn: What's stopping you from joining? Try something new, you won't know until you try.

Where are they now?

Andrew: Paraprofessional at Metro Deaf School’s high school section.

Justin: Mechanical Engineer at Starkey Hearing Technologies.

Kyle: Paraprofessional at Metro Deaf School; attending Hennepin County Technical College & University of Minnesota.

Johanna: Electronics engineer at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.

Maggie: Community Engagement Advocate at ThinkSelf Minnesota Deaf Adult Education & Advocacy.

John: Digital Guest Support Services Team at Target Headquarters.

AJ: Biological Technician at a national wildlife refuge in Montana.

Zakaria: Staff leader at a group home.

Shawn: Certified Deaf Interpreter in the medical VRI field.

Hennah: Securian Financial's retirement division in financial operations.

Tjay: Accessibility Coordinator for the City of St. Paul.

Autumn: Preschool Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

In addition

The UMN CoBo team is grateful to receive the majority of their funding and support from the community. Past and current sponsors have included the following:

  • Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens
  • Minnesota Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
  • ThinkSelf Minnesota Deaf Adult Education & Advocacy
  • Metro Deaf School
  • Bridge Communications
  • Balanced Boutique
  • sComm

From the University of Minnesota community:

  • Disability Resource Center
  • Interpreting & Captioning Unit
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Student Ambassadors
  • Disabled Students Cultural Center
  • UMN Bookstores
  • UMN students, faculty, and community members who bought treats from our bake sales!

MNCDHH has also been a partner.

And YOU. Because of your support, the UMN CoBo team is truly a community team at heart.

Follow the UMN Deaf CoBo team on Facebook!


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