Non-hearing Lee student pursues deaf ministry
Most of us are all too familiar with the booming music flooding the Conn Center and the constant chatter resounding in the PCSU, but one student highlights a different Lee University experience.
Freshman pastoral ministries major Rebecca Rinehart is a non-hearing student who came to Lee with a dream of earning her bachelor’s. Her mother was unable to graduate from college, and Rinehart came to Lee, in part, to fulfill this family dream.
Throughout her time at Lee, Rinehart has utilized Lee’s services and accommodations, such as sign language interpreters, to aide her navigation through higher education.
Having communicated with English Sign Language (ESL) since she was 2 years old, Rinehart is also in the process of learning American Sign Language (ASL).
According to Director of Academic Support Dr. La-Juan Bradford, most people do not know that there is a difference between the two languages and explained that the main difference is in the grammatical structure.
Bradford said some school systems decide to use what is called “Signed English,” which is what Rinehart is used to. This is when your voice keeps up with your signing, meaning that the organization of the signing mimics that of the English language.
Bradford uses Signed English to translate chapel services in the balcony of the Conn Center. She uses her lips to mouth her words and her hands to sign the messages of the speaker.
“When I sign for [Rinehart] I am not going to talk because it would disrupt people around, but it is on my lips, so I sign English order,” said Bradford. “[Rinehart] is reading my lips and seeing the sign; she is working twice as hard in my opinion.”
Senior psychology major Sarah Newman, who is also pursuing a deaf studies minor, is among several students who sign the worship songs during chapel.
“Dr. Bradford has asked several upper-level ASL students to sign songs in chapel,” Newman said. “I got the opportunity to sign my first song last semester and really enjoyed it, so Dr. Bradford has continued to ask me to sign a song or two every couple of weeks.”
Rinehart uses her voice to speak as she signs. She is a lip-reader, and she explained seeing lips move in addition to the signs helps pull things together.
Rinehart also brings an interpreter to class as well as some technological aids.
Her professors use a Roger Pen during class, which is a microphone that connects directly to her hearing aid so she can more clearly hear what the professor is saying.
However, Rinehart said interacting with professors can be difficult, especially if she wishes to meet with them outside of class without an interpreter.
Additionally, there are many distractions in the classroom that make it sometimes difficult to focus on the interpreter, Rinehart said, such as people walking around or making a lot of movements during class. Excessive background noise can also distract from the lectures.
“Hearing aids don’t fix; they just make everything loud,” said Bradford.
Rinehart is studying pastoral ministries, and she explained that she is interested in pursuing deaf ministry.
One way she and her peers are getting involved is through a monthly “Silent Lunch” event hosted by Bradford. This event allows students to interact with non-hearing adults in Cleveland. Rinehart said she attends every meeting.
Rinehart also attends a Bible study taught by Bradford at North Cleveland Church of God every Wednesday night and attends the church’s Sunday morning service, where Dr. Bradford and another interpreter sign the messages.
Through her pursuit of ministry, Rinehart seeks to enrich the lives of those around her with her strengths and experiences, opening opportunities to use sign language for this purpose.