My STEM journey began in high school, when I first started to think about what I would do after graduation. During my junior year, I learned about a summer program that introduced computing fields to high school students who were deaf or hard-of-hearing, and offered college credit for participation in summer classes. I signed up and traveled to Washington State to participate.
I already had an interest in computer technology and through this experience I was able to work with computers and meet deaf professionals in computing fields.
After I graduated from high school, I spent one more summer in the AccessComputing Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing program. I was accepted to study at Moorhead State University of Minnesota (MSUM). Prior to attending MSUM, I had a strong interest in web development and graphic design, which led to me starting some freelance work for a few clients in my hometown.
At that time, computer technology and the Internet were exploding. Because of this, I decided to pursue a bachelor of science degree in graphic communications with an emphasis in multimedia at MSUM.
Due to my profound hearing loss, MSUM provided Real Time Captioning (RTC) in the classrooms. RTC is a transcription service, done by a court stenographer
who transcribes spoken words into text in which then appears on a computer screen. The concept is similar to closed captions we see on videos or on television. RTC allowed me to fully participate in classes. I graduated from MSUM with honors (magna cum laude).
After college, I started working at Daktronics, Inc. in a web and graphics marketing role for corporate websites. Over the years, my role has evolved into a web administrator role, in which I manage the corporate website. Participation in large meetings can be difficult for me, especially when people call-in to participate by teleconference. However, using RTC in these types of meetings solves the access problem.
My STEM journey has required the use of assistive technology. Without cutting edge tools, life in school and work would be much more challenging for those of us with disabilities. The new technology being developed today will continue to help ensure equal access for everyone.