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Florissant Valley Deaf Studies Communications Graduate Seeks to Adopt Deaf Child

May 12, 2009

Melissa Winchester  
Melissa Winchester

Melissa Winchester wants to make a difference by being the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. She also hopes to adopt a child that is deaf. 

The deaf communications studies (DCS) major will graduate in May 2009. Winchester chose to further her education at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley for various reasons.

"I chose the community college because of the DCS program. I’d heard that it was the best and it was the closest program to where I live. Also community college is more affordable," said Winchester.

Winchester works full-time at Heritage Alternative in the Francis Howell School District as a Behavior Specialist. She chose a DCS major because she wanted to learn how to sign and be a part of the deaf community, which she felt would help increase her possibilities of adopting a deaf child.

"I have worked in special education for fifteen years now, and have seen and felt the love these children are so willing to give," said Winchester. "How could I not want to be a part of that? Children with special needs are the very last and often not adopted and it breaks my heart."

Winchester hopes to find work as an interpreter using the skills that she has gained and possibly go on to obtain her Bachelor’s degree.
"Deaf communication studies are not just about learning the skills to do a new job," Winchester said. "[The program] teaches you about other people, their abilities, and about a culture you may have never known existed."

Winchester recommends attending Florissant Valley to others because of the individualized attention, encouragement, and support she received from her DCS instructors.

"Lisa Betzler is deaf, and taught me her language and her culture," she explained. "Mary Luebke taught me the profession and how to be successful as a hearing person in the deaf culture. Dan Betzler led me in gaining confidence and experience in the language."

Winchester admits that she is both excited and scared about graduating, and gives credit to her family, religion, and aspirations of adopting a deaf child as her inspirations. 

"I have four children; my oldest son is serving in Iraq [in] his third tour of duty. My husband, Brian, has multiple sclerosis and is my biggest support system. If he can get up no matter how he is feeling and do his best every day, how can I not do mine?"