Hearing impaired resident learns trade, secures future
Kenneth James has been facing and overcoming challenges throughout his life and his current enrollment at Universal Technical Institute is no exception. James, who was born with a severe hearing impairment, moved from California to Garland to live with his father after high school graduation.
Even though he is currently without hearing aids that provide partial hearing, he decided to enroll at UTI. James knew that it would be difficult but he was prepared for the challenge. He can read lips but teachers are not always looking right at him. So, with two American Sign Language interpreters, Lonnie Parks and Bobby Fisher from Fisher Interpreting, he is learning a trade that will serve him well in the future. James has two interpreters each day because of the length of the school day.
James had interpreters throughout elementary, middle and high school which helped academically, but he said that he struggled to make friends.
“I tried to hang out with hearing people, but I’m always the “quiet” one and had a hard time fitting in,” he said. “I was always self-conscious about being different but that improved during middle school when I began to worry less about what other people thought.”
James knew that he was best suited for hands-on work.
“I did a lot of online research and realized with the strong demand for auto and diesel technicians and the quality education UTI provides. I had found my future,” he said.
He was nervous at first but is enjoying classes at UTI. Students are more accepting of him than they were when he was younger.
“I also really like that being at a post-secondary school, the instructors interact with me on an adult level,” James said. “And, I get to learn things that will help my career and that I am passionate about.”
He started school in January and will graduate in about a year as a certified auto and diesel technician.
“I then plan to apply to MMI, an additional program provided by UTI, to learn to be a motorcycle technician,” James said. “This is not offered at the Dallas campus, so I will have to move temporarily for that training.”
His advice to others with disabilities is to be aware of how far they can push themselves and not be afraid to ask for help.
“Go for your dreams and don’t worry what others think,” James said. “Your true friends will accept you for who you are.”
Not all students are the same and each deserves to chart his or her own path to success.
For too long we’ve accepted as truth that a college degree is the only way to get ahead and we’ve overlooked the gifts, talents and significant contributions of students who don’t fit the four-year mold.
Some students learn best not from books and lectures but by digging in and doing. They’re hands-on learners who are mechanically minded, fluent in technology and geniuses at making things work.