2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

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Sarah Esposito

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Sarah Joy Esposito

Sarah Joy Esposito

Sarah Joy Esposito, the student speaker at the evening convocation ceremony, says she thought graduation "would never come." But then, Esposito - who dual majored as a Reading Specialist and in the Teaching of American Sign Language-  never thought she'd go to TC, either.

Esposito grew up on Long Island, in a house with backyard that was three minutes from the beach. "Whenever I thought about life in the City, I'd say to myself, 'Manhattan? Garbage in the streets, crowds, pushing, shoving, yelling, cursing? I don't think so,'" she recalls.

Then, one morning seven years ago when she was a student at Vanderbilt University, Esposito underwent a life-altering experience that would ultimately cause her to question many of her preconceived notions. Waking for an eight a.m. class, she reached over to put on her hearing aid and discovered that overnight, she had become completely deaf.

Initially, she had less trouble coping with her hearing loss than with the stigma she felt surrounded it.

"I felt that deafness was something shameful, to be hidden," she says.

In time, through her own perseverance and educating herself and others, Esposito came to feel differently. And that, in essence, was her message to her audience at TC's convocation.

"If allowed education will result in the breaking and crushing of stereotypes," she says, "It will result in the destruction of erroneous perspectives. Education, if we allow it to, will cause us to break through the defenses we have built up around ourselves, to smash through the barriers that block us from moving forward and to see the beauty in the things we once thought ugly and shameful.

Thanks to education, Esposito concluded, she now sees the beauty in herself and in New York City - and in the invaluable contribution she will make to the world as a teacher.

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