Raynisha Jackson has a bad romance to thank for motivating her to pursue higher education in her thirties.
“It lit a fire under me,” she said, referring to her ex’s persistent negativity. “In the words of Ciara, I needed to ‘Level Up!’”
As a deaf person, Jackson was also looking to escape the limitations of the Social Security system.
“We can't have careers if we're on Social Security. You can only make a certain amount of money a month before they start saying, ‘You seem to be a little more independent than we want you to be.’”
Jackson enrolled at City College and chose a business administration major because it aligned with her ability to manage others, joking, “I’m bossy. I’m a Gemini. I’m the oldest of my siblings — it comes natural to me.”
Strategizing that a business administration degree would broaden her skills and be applicable toward almost any position, Jackson also considered the ways in which her disability could benefit potential employers. She cited, as an example, that job interviewers rarely consider providing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for deaf applicants, and suggested that she could provide that service to human resource departments.
“I'm not looking at the disability. I'm looking at the ability,” she said. “How can I become someone who can be an advocate for other deaf people or people who use ASL resources?”
Jackson put her leadership skills to use as public relations officer for the City College chapter of Delta Alpha Pi, an international honor society that recognizes and supports students with disabilities.
“It’s an awesome club,” said Jackson, explaining that members convene to discuss events, ask for homework help, vent about school, and generally support each other. Her top two tips for students with similar disabilities: take meticulous notes and don’t be afraid to approach professors for help.
“Ask them, ‘Can you communicate with me in these ways that I need you to communicate?’” she said, while sharing an anecdote about a teacher who typed out everything for her during his Zoom hours.
“I’m so grateful for that. Had he not been willing to communicate with me in ways that I needed him to, I probably would've failed that class.”
Outside of her peers and professors, Jackson also found support in Disability Support Programs and Services (DSPS), especially via the Interpreting Services Office. It was particularly helpful, according to Jackson, to request specific interpreters for specific classes, both for continuity and comprehension.
“I would ask [the interpreter], ‘What do you specialize in? What are you good at?’” recalled Jackson. “They would say, ‘I’m really good at math,’ so I would put that person in my math class.”
Still, there is always room for improvement. Jackson thinks it would be beneficial for DSPS to provide its students with interpretation services for non-school-sponsored events as well. She also has suggestions for how society at large can erase the stigma surrounding people with disabilities.
“I would make sure to have some kind of disability inclusion in every single thing that people do.”
From major sporting events to simple supermarket trips, Jackson called for more inclusion to help normalize discussions regarding disabilities. She said she’d like to see disabled athletes share the spotlight with high-profile professional sports leagues like the NFL. She also highlighted the frustrating recurring experience of encountering store clerks who completely abandon interactions after realizing they are conversing with a deaf person.
“We gotta change how people react,” said Jackson.
Part of that change for deaf folks, she suggests, comes with having the confidence to take up space.
“Show yourself! Don’t be ashamed. Be proud of who you are!”
Jackson graduated this May and is just getting started. This fall, she plans to transfer to California State University Northridge’s business program to pursue her bachelor’s degree. After that, she hopes to gain some work experience in the human resources field before potentially pursuing further education, perhaps at Gallaudet University (which caters specifically to deaf and hard of hearing students).
While an ex-partner may have lit the fire Jackson needed to level up, she now credits her current girlfriend for keeping that fire stoked.
“She inspires me to do better,” said Jackson. “And I’m trying to inspire her to do better. I’m trying to be her example.”
Thanks to Raynisha for taking the time to share her story and for setting an example for us all. If you are a SDCCD student with disabilities looking for support and resources, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our DSPS team.
Established in 1914, San Diego City College serves as the educational cornerstone of downtown San Diego. A 60-acre urban campus, City College serves more than 16,000 students, offering 200 majors and degrees and 1,800 classes. City College is part of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD), the second-largest of California’s 72 community college districts, which also includes Mesa College, Miramar College, and Continuing Education. For more information, visit www.sdcity.edu.
Student Spotlights, presented by Disability Support Programs and Services, feature success stories from ambitious SDCCD students and alumni whose participation in DSPS has helped them reach meaningful education and/or employment goals.
Contact: Cesar Gumapas, Information Officer at 619-388-3911 or firstname.lastname@example.org