Being selected to come to the US on the YES Program was life changing for deaf student Nehemiah Danjuma (Nigeria/CO). This year, Nehemiah was able to attend an all deaf school and live with a host family whom are advocates for equal access for the deaf. Through these venues, Nehemiah was able to join school activities like the Academic Bowl Team as well as submit a written essay for the 2016 National Literary Competition held by Gallaudet University, the only higher education institution in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students.
His teachers encouraged him to enter the competition because of his love for writing, but that is not why he entered-
“I didn’t enter because I love to write, but because I have something I care and I’m passionate to write about. The theme is my favorite and obviously it’s something on my mind! I have a dream that I believe in and share with the deaf community. So the essay gave me the opportunity to express the dream I have for deaf people in my country.”
Nehemiah won the Grand Prize in this competition, a trip for two to visit Gallaudet University in Washington DC! We invite you to read about his experience in his own words and about a follow up fundraiser he had the honor of attending:
“Visiting Gallaudet University was a dream came true for me! I never thought I’d have the opportunity to meet the deaf celebrity Model Nyle DiMarco. I never imagined I would make it to National Academic Bowl competition as an observer. I never thought my essay will be published in The Buff and Blue literary edition magazine and Gallaudet Youth programs website. The trip was a great experience, connection, recognition and academic goals in the future. It was a great honor for my host school, this exchange program and my country.
I have always dreamed of going to Gallaudet, so being on campus gave me the right information about college choice. I was satisfied and I think it outweighed my expectations.
As a visiting student, the University President organized two classes for me to observe while on campus. Constitutional law and European studies because my specific area of interest are Law, Journalism, International relations. I took my time to tour the campus, observe the academic bowl matches, had lunch with some prominent Nigerians at Gallaudet and meeting with some brilliant and energetic people who have outstanding contributions to the deaf community. It inspired me to want to find where I belong.
The great honor was when I was called up to the stage in front of nearly 1,000 people and recognized as the literary competition grand prize winner for writing. Standing there, I feel so honored and humbled!
The trip gave me the opportunity to be interviewed by State Department. The interview will help find host families for new exchange students with disabilities by featuring my practical experience, host family life, challenges, success, Alumni goals and interview by my host Dad. The interview helped me to be more open minded in order to answer all the questions I was asked.
I’m glad I did! And I strongly support the inclusion of more deaf, blind, handicapped, mental or physical disabled people in the program. I look forward to seeing more exchange students like myself.
On Friday 6th May, I attended a fundraising event for the Veditz Center where I had the chance to meet Nyle DiMarco again. He was the chief fundraiser. My host mom was on the committee that organized the event. The purpose of Veditz Center is to establish the heart of the Deaf community in Colorado to create economic power and political capital and one of these goals is to promote strong language foundation that starts with ASL for Deaf babies and toddlers allowing them to gain stronger English literacy. It is going to be a home for the deaf community in Colorado. My host mom is a strong advocate for equal access to information for deaf people. I fit in the family so well because they’re familiar with deaf culture! I have two deaf host siblings. Because of their support, I’m finishing my year strong!”
Nehemiah wrote of his exchange year:
“Life as an exchange student has taught me a lot. The year has been adventurous, challenging, fun, life-change and worthwhile! I’m so grateful for the wonderful opportunity.”
We encourage you to read his essay submission on page 23 here: https://issuu.com/buffnblue/docs/nlcbook/1
Read about the Nyle DiMarco Foundation here: https://nyledimarcofoundation.com/