At the graduation ceremony for Rancho Verde High School in the Val Verde Unified School District held on May 28, thousands of family and friends gathered to support the hundreds of graduates of the class of 2014. Loud cheering and raucous applause were audible reminders of the congratulatory nature of the evening’s festivities.
For one student, the roar of the crowd may not have registered with the same decibel level, but the sense of accomplishment and anticipation of heading to college was clear as a bell in his mind. Hemet resident Jonathan Gutierrez was born hard of hearing, but that did not prevent him from graduating with honors from Rancho Verde High School and being accepted into Gallaudet University this fall in Washington, D.C.
Throughout his high school career, the Riverside County Office of Education and Rancho Verde High School (RVHS) have worked together to provide Jonathan with optimal opportunities to mainstream and accommodate his needs. Specifically, Jonathan benefited from interpreting services, tutoring, and support classes throughout his four years at RVHS where he earned a 3.7+ grade point average.
Jonathan admitted to the frustration of trying to listen intently and still missing information, thus forcing him to be reliant on an interpreter. He has become adept at knowing what people are thinking by reading their body language and practicing lip reading combined with the study of facial expressions. With the help of special hearing aids, Jonathan can hear and enjoys listening to music. But, even without the hearing aids, he enjoys listening to the music in his head.
“I was happy that I was born hard of hearing. My family and friends accept me as I am,” Jonathan said. “Deaf people express themselves differently, and hearing people do not understand. But, I’m really normal and can use my knowledge to benefit other deaf people and help them understand things.”
As he transitions to college on the other side of the country, his principal expects Jonathan to expand his social skills while his dedication and self-motivation will ensure his success—thanks to a full menu of programs and services aimed at helping students reach their educational goals.
“Jonathan has taught us to never quit on our goals if you want to be successful,” said RVHS principal, Marlene Lopez. “He won’t stop until he completely understands information in class. He sets a high standard for himself and won’t accept anything less than his own goals to succeed.”
Based in Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University is the world’s only university with programs and services specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. The school was established in 1864 by an Act of Congress, and its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. In 2014, the bilingual school is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Approximately 95% of the 2000 students in their undergraduate and graduate programs are deaf or hard of hearing.
Jonathan and his family first visited the campus in 2013, and in March of 2014, his application was accepted and he was chosen to receive the Dean’s Prestige Scholarship in the amount of $24,000 for four years. He is excited about gaining more knowledge in chemistry and math as he studies to become a pharmacist.
“I’ll miss working together with friends, teachers, and interpreters,” Jonathan shared. “But, I’m looking forward to meeting people, learning new subjects, and gaining more knowledge.”