Spotlight

Sonya Smith

In 1988, Sonya Smith was born in St. Louis, MO. Sonya later lost her hearing due to high fevers and ear infection. Sonya’s family is hearing and she’s the only deaf person. Sonya attended St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf (SJID) where she learned American Sign Language as her primary language. Sonya was transferred to Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) because of its close proximity. Sadly, Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) strongly banned the use of American Sign language so Sonya had to learn and use her ability to communicate through spoken language. Frustrated, Sonya’s mother sought better educational opportunity provided by a special education program at Turner Middle School (St. Louis Public School) where she became a top A+ student. Then, Sonya moved to a “regular” class with 30 students aided by a FM System without a sign language interpreter. However, the use of the FM system did not provide sufficient accessibility.  Therefore, Sonya’s mother continued to fight for additional support to allow Sonya to have the best educational opportunity. In 2004, Sonya enrolled at Webster Groves High School where she excelled and was on the Honor Roll for four years. Sonya received several scholarships from Florissant Valley Community College. However, the two years spent at Florissant Valley were very challenging and Sonya did not do well in all her classes. This led to the decision to transfer to Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID) and enroll in the Associate of Science in Business program. Sonya then attended Saunders College of Business and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration-Management with a concentration in Marketing, in 2016. When she arrived at RIT/NTID, Sonya was very shy, isolated and didn’t know much about the deaf community until she met several deaf friends and finally found her identity as a black deaf woman. Sonya later volunteered at Image RIT and was Vice President of RIT/NTID Ebony Club.

Sonya embraces diversity and enjoys learning about different cultural beliefs and new perspectives. Sonya does not see color, refuses to give in to discrimination (color, gender, hearing status, etc.), and closely holds on to the ideals instilled by her mother to never give up despite struggles. Instead, Sonya continues to take advantage of opportunities to grow and to develop advanced leadership skills supported by family and friends. Sonya is honored to represent the black deaf community in her role as Miss Black Deaf America 2017-2019.  Sonya currently resides in Maryland. Sonya works as a Client Strategist at JM Davis Consultant Group LLC where she supports clients with disability by focusing on job placement to include working on interview skills, job training, and educating companies who are considered “equal opportunity employer” to break communication and all disability barriers. Sonya is very passionate about helping others with similar experiences to ensure that they are able to get jobs, be self-sufficient, and satisfy their needs. Sonya strives to help others develop self-confidence, gain motivation to pursue their dreams, overcome barriers, and reject any boundaries/limits. Sonya is driven by deep faith and her spirituality.

"I have lots of things to prove to myself. One is that I can live my life fearlessly." -Oprah Winfrey.

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