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Florissant Valley Campus

Signing in America

Fausto Hernandez

At first glance, Fausto Carlos Hernandez Carrillo resembles your everyday college student. Upon close examination, it becomes apparent that there is much more than meets the eye. This 20-year-old soccer enthusiast is part of the Scholarships for Education and Economic Development SEED) program at STLCC-Florissant Valley. The program is designed to support economic and social development in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, through which more than 5,000 youth have been trained in the United States and are now working to affect change in their home communities.

Laid-back, caring and charismatic, this Mexico native has one thing that sets him apart from the rest of his family. He is the only deaf member.

“They are all hearing, but my mother and younger brother sign,” said Hernandez. While growing up in San Juan Teotihuacan, he attended a deaf school and spent five hours commuting between his home town and Mexico City every day.

He has two older siblings, both of whom pursued a college education, and a younger one still in high school. 

“My parents didn’t go to college, but my brothers did. One of my brothers studied manufacturing technology and the other, computers and business,” he said. “Since I’m studying computers and business, talking with my brother about it helped to get me excited about coming here to study.”

Hernandez first heard about the SEED program when representatives did a week-long presentation at his school. 

“It sounded exciting and I love to learn, so I was hooked,” he said. “Mom was sad that I would be gone for so long, but she thought it was such a good opportunity so she gave me her blessings.”

Having never been to America before, Hernandez was surprised to find everything so clean and everyone so focused on education. While the English language is a little hard, he said it gets easier to understand as time goes by. He says the strangest thing he experienced when he first got here was miscommunication among the students with all the different sign languages. 

“But now we all know ASL (American Sign Language), so we usually understand each other.”  

And while he is enjoying the SEED program and regards it as one of his greatest accomplishments, he truly misses his family and can’t wait to return home in June 2012.

“I want to share my knowledge and help people in my country,” he said. Hernandez is ecstatic that Mexico is making a lot of progress with attitudes toward the deaf. 

Where else have you traveled? Photo of Fausto
I travelled to Canada when I was 14 and played in a deaf basketball competition. The U.S. came in first, Venezuela second, and my team, Mexico, came in third. I was in Canada for 15 days. Mom was scared for me to be away for so long that time, too.

What is your favorite American food?
The food is definitely different. I like to blend Mexican food with American food. No American food is as spicy as we like in Mexico. I like spaghetti and rice, too. Oh, and barbecue, I love barbecue!

How is school different in your home country?
The teaching style is very different in how things are explained. There is much more use of visual aids and more checking for comprehension by teachers here. It’s mainly lecture style in Mexico. I’m really enjoying the style of teaching here.

What is the most interesting thing you've seen in America?
Without a doubt, the technology! There is so much new technology for the deaf, and it’s so easily obtained. 

What's the most difficult situation you've faced? 
The most difficult situation I have faced has been in community service. I really hadn’t done any home repairs before, but here, with our friends from Boeing, in a program called Rebuilding Together, we helped fix the home of an elderly woman. We also went to Joplin to help repair homes damaged in the tornado. Joplin was a great, yet difficult, experience for me. It’s sad that so many people had to go through this. 

What are your plans for the future?
When I return home to Mexico, I want to get a job working with computers. I want to work as a deaf advocate or as a career counselor with deaf people. I plan to work with Federación Mexicana de Sordos A.C. (Deaf Association) again like I did before coming to America.

What do you like about the Florissant Valley campus? 
I really like all the visual aids used in the classrooms. The teachers are very clear in their explanations of what needs to be done. 

What has been your favorite experience here? 
My host family took my SEED brothers and me fishing in Springfield. It was a lot of fun. 

What’s the best advice you can give future SEED students?
I would tell them to be open to new experiences. It’s all about taking advantage of the opportunities and to take back all you learn to help your community and country. This program is an excellent base to do that. 

By: Rachel Gomez