Laredo’s Deaf Program Reflects on ‘CODA’ Oscar Success

The 2022 Oscars presented a historic night for the deaf community.

During the event, history’s first deaf actor won an Oscar as Troy Kotsur was named Best Supporting Actor for “CODA.” And the accolades continued when CODA – or Child of Deaf Adults – won Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay honors.

After CODA won the best picture award, the audience waved their hands in the air in the American Sign Language version of applause to show their respect for the deaf community and the film.

Many across the country watched, including Laredo. And local deaf education teachers said it was great for inclusion.

In the city, Dr. Leo Cigarroa High School offers a comprehensive program to help deaf students in the community by teaching them to communicate effectively and have a successful academic career. Moreover, the program also helps in teaching students to hear sign language.

“CODA’s best picture winner has had a positive impact on Deaf teens in the Regional Day Schools for the Deaf program at Cigarroa High School,” said Jose Mendoza, a Certified Deaf Education Teacher for the school district. independent of Laredo. “For example, actors who portray deaf people are actually deaf. The film motivates students and lets them know that the sky is the limit and that deaf people can do anything hearing people can do.

“For example, it is common to see hearing actors playing deaf in TV shows or movies. CODA features real Deaf actors, and CHS’ Laredo Young Deaf Community recognizes that.

Mendoza believes the film also serves as an acknowledgment that the deaf community exists and that at CHS, faculty, staff and students always make sure they have the same opportunities as everyone else.

“We currently have Deaf students pursuing distinguished career paths and extracurricular activities,” Mendoza said. “Deaf students participate in classes in cheerleading, cross-country, health sciences, accounting, and robotics.”

As a result of these accomplishments, Mendoza still says there is more to do as the community strives for inclusivity.

Mendoza says the “Deaf Laredo Peppers” – part of the local deaf community whose moderators include Mariana Saldivar, Marco Coronado, Jesus Casso and others – have expressed concern about the importance of raising awareness in the city of Laredo.

“Although Laredo doesn’t have a large deaf community like big cities like San Antonio or Houston, the ‘Deaf Laredo Peppers’ were able to meet in small cafes and parks around town to hold their monthly ‘deaf talks’ and promote deaf culture and bring light to the deaf community,” Mendoza said.

Even in Laredo, while the city isn’t the size of large Texas metros, LISD director of special education Raul Gomez Jr. says there isn’t much community outreach. locally deaf. But Gomez says their school program receives many students from other local school districts and tries to educate them more in all districts to ensure they are able to communicate better with their peers, whether they are hearing or not. .

“Laredo ISD is the financial agent for the regional Day Schools for the Deaf program,” said Gomez Jr. “We serve approximately 105 students from the following school districts: Laredo ISD, United ISD, Webb Consolidated ISD, Jim Hogg County ISD and Zapata County ISD.”

Mendoza says learning sign language is something a lot of people should consider, especially younger students. The results at Cigarroa High School demonstrated that learning sign language had a positive outcome not only between deaf students but also those who are not deaf, as greater communication between these students was achieved.

“CHS offers American Sign Language as a course,” Mendoza said. “The course helps students acquire the two foreign language credits required to graduate. Since the introduction of ASL classes for students at Cigarroa High, many hearing students are able to communicate with deaf students. This has a positive impact on deaf students and makes the CHS a much more deaf-friendly environment.

One thing Mendoza wants to point out is that sign language is not a universal language, as each country has its own sign language. For example, ASL came to prominence in the United States in the 1800s thanks to Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.

“He wanted to help his neighbor’s deaf daughter, so he traveled to Europe and studied ways to communicate with deaf people,” Mendoza said. “From there he met Laurent Clerc, who was deaf and attended the famous school for the deaf in Paris.”

Even though movies like CODA draw attention to this community and its issues in a completely inclusive way, Mendoza says the Deaf community continues to struggle in this regard, such as during live broadcasts, as many news channels don’t have no sign language interpreter. . This is unlike other countries like Mexico that have these options.

“It’s a topic that has come up nationally,” Mendoza said. “The National Association of the Deaf lobbied and requested interpreters during live broadcasts.”

As these issues are tackled nationally, Mendoza says much can be done to create more inclusivity locally and with the deaf community that already lives in the city.

“When you see a deaf person, try to communicate,” Mendoza said. ” Do not be shy. In my experience, the Deaf community is very receptive and won’t turn away anyone trying to learn ASL. Other ways of inclusion include taking an ASL course at your local college or university. Gallaudet University offers free interactive online sign language courses.

Michael A. May