"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

Rebekah Burr and the significance of Deaf culture


In recent years, people have become more aware of the benefits of learning another language. American Sign Language (ASL) is a language that is often overlooked, but is a valuable language to develop. Rebekah Burr, a student at LHS who is a member of the Deaf community, advocates for others unfamiliar with the language to be willing to take a step in learning ASL from members of the Deaf community. 

When learning ASL, it will quickly become apparent that it is not just the language but the culture that needs to be understood. For example, it is important to make the distinction between capital “Deaf” and lowercase “deaf” in order to become more familiar with the language.

“Capital ‘Deaf’ means you are completely unable to hear and are born that way. Lower-case ‘deaf’ means you become deaf from an illness or have hearing loss. Both mean you are deaf but capital ‘Deaf’ and lower-case ‘deaf’ mean two completely different things,” said Burr.

Burr has been Deaf since birth and both of her parents are also Deaf. She first attended a school for the Deaf until third grade when she made the transition to a hearing school. In Burr’s eyes, making this transition was one of the more difficult challenges she has faced in her schooling. 

“I went to California School for the Deaf in Fremont… and then I transferred to a hearing school in 2014,” said Burr. “Having Darcy [her interpreter] there with me made it easier to transition.”

Darcy Rokusek, who has been Burr’s interpreter since elementary school, has a very specific role: to facilitate communication within all classrooms/settings and to convey the message of the speaker(s).

“We are the Deaf students’ voice as well as the hearing individual(s) voice.”

— Darcy Rokusek

Additionally, in elementary school Rokusek used recess as a time to teach some of Burr’s classmates sign language.  

“In elementary school, almost all of my friends made efforts to learn sign language and most of them still know some signs now,” said Burr.  “A lot of teachers that I had those past years asked me a lot of questions like ‘how do you sign this; can you teach me?’”

Another way that some of Burr’s classmates know sign language is through the ASL class at WHS or JHS. This class was originally only offered at WHS. However, it became so popular that they decided to expand. Darcy hopes that ASL classes will eventually be offered at every high school in order to encourage more people to learn the language.

Darcy originally learned ASL from one of her childhood friends. 

“I was first exposed to the language when we had new neighbors move into our neighborhood. I was maybe four years old. They had just discovered their daughter Lori was Deaf and were teaching her sign language. We became friends and learned ASL at the same time,” said Darcy.

While most people do not know anything about Deaf culture there are definitely a few things that Burr wished everybody knew. 

“I wish people knew that asking to learn sign language is not rude. We Deaf people can do anything that hearing people can do, and American Sign Language (ASL) is not the only sign language there is. There is a different sign language in Mexico, Britain, France, Russia, etc. It is like speaking different languages, just in different sign languages.”

— Rebekah Burr

If one is interested in learning ASL there are a couple of different ways that could lead to success. 

“The best way to learn ASL is definitely from a Deaf person. There are some ASL classes that you can learn from online but make sure it’s actually from a Deaf person, not a hearing person,” said Burr. “Most Deaf people appreciate it when people ask to learn their language because they are glad that people take interest in learning our language. For me, I feel happy and seen when people ask more questions after learning about my language. Question after question is my favorite thing to teach people about.” 

In her free time Burr loves to read and play softball with her dad. She emphasizes how life as a member of the Deaf community is not different from the life of a hearing person.

“It is not as hard as people would think. I live the same way hearing people do,” said Burr. 

Just like any other senior, Burr is now faced with the daunting task of deciding what she wants to do in the future. As of right now, Burr is planning on attending Gallaudet College’s social worker program because she loves to help others.

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About the Contributor
Joseph Tunge
Joseph Tunge, Staff Writer
Joseph Tunge is a junior and first-year staff writer for the Statesman. He is involved in LHS wrestling and football but his hidden talent is in band where he plays piano for jazz band. He also has a passion for the Vikings, especially his favorite players Christian Darrisaw and former DB for the Vikings Duke Shelley. Due to his David Goggins-type mentality, you can usually find him grinding in his concrete edging business called 605 Edging.
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