Alumna persevered to overcome hearing loss and inequity to become an EMT.
As we celebrate our graduates this spring, we hear many powerful stories about their experience—both in college and in life. More often than not, they’re stories of overcoming significant obstacles to reach their dreams.
During our graduations ceremonies, we get to hear from some of these students, as well as an FRCC professor and a community member with ties to the college. We call them our “Voices.” This week, were sharing several of their speeches with you here.
We hope you learn something worthwhile from each our our graduation voices.
Katie Day: Emergency Medical Services Alumna
Hello! Thank you for inviting me to be here today. I’m honored beyond words. My name is Katie Day and I am a proud 2017 graduate of Front Range Community College.
I was born with sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. Despite numerous tests and inquiries the cause is unknown. It started out as mild to moderate, for the last 10-15 years has been moderate to severe, and eventually will be severe to profound.
I am not afraid of this transition; it has always simply been a fact of life.
Learning to Cope
I developed better than average lipreading skills at a young age and learned American Sign Language as a teenager. The gift of sign language opened doors for me that I could not have possibly fathomed in my younger days in the Midwest. The right to have access to interpreters became a vital conduit to new information, learning and growth.
A New Dream
My journey to FRCC began back in 2009. I was attending a four-year university and working 30 hours per week and was captain of the college swim team. Many of my friends who I worked with at the swimming pool where I lifeguard were also volunteering for a local fire department. And they were getting free EMS certificates in exchange for their time, as well as chances for a full-time job serving their community.
I thought this was amazing and really wanted to participate. I did a few ride alongs but could not make the time commitments due to my already extremely fully schedule.
Denied the Right to Try
I didn’t give up on this idea, though. Fast forward to 2013—I applied to an EMS program. I was denied the opportunity to try, with a note that informed me that if I needed an interpreter to learn, I wasn’t qualified to be an EMT.
I applied to a second and third program with much the same result. Finally, a friend recommended I try a community college. They would be able to provide the reasonable accommodations that I needed and give me a chance to try. I sent in my application to FRCC’s EMS program.
As I was working on prerequisites, I was trying to figure out how I would use a stethoscope with hearing aids. I put out a call for help on Facebook and was connected to a woman who lived locally and who herself was Deaf and formerly an EMT.
I found out that she has sued the Department of Justice for the right for Deaf people to become Emergency Service Providers, and she opened the door for everyone who followed. Not only did she show me her stethoscope and let me try it out, but she gave me some excellent advice for going to class:
“Walk in there with your head held high, and do not once apologize for being there.” I took that to heart. I knew that I was not only chasing after my dream but also holding open the door for all those with hearing loss who might follow me.
Hard Work, Finding Success
To make a long story short, I succeeded. I worked far harder in four months than I ever did for my four-year degree, and I am a better person for it.
I could not have done it without the support of my fellow classmates and the faculty at FRCC or the support of some of my amazing coworkers in the National Park Service. I have gone on to use my EMS skills for local communities, the National Park Service and the US Forest Service.
I am not the first deaf/hard of hearing EMT, and I won’t be the last. Perseverance is what helped me to succeed. I feel that that attribute is a common theme in the room today.
You are here today because you weren’t afraid to start or to start over as many times as it took to get it right. You will meet the right people, in the right place, and the right time when you are supposed to—and not one minute before, regardless of how badly you want it.
Advice for Graduates
I hope the courage and spirit of optimism that brought you through to this moment stays with you throughout all of your career and life. I hope that when someone tells you your dream is stupid or you can’t do it, you turn a deaf ear to them, whether literal or metaphorical.
And finally, I hope you never miss an opportunity help someone who wants to better themselves and the world around them.
Thank you and congratulations, class of 2023.