Chanel Gleicher, of Maryland, will discuss growing up in the deaf community in a presentation at Belly Up Aspen today.
She has a lot of experience to draw from, having grown up in a deaf family.
“I was born deaf,” Gleicher said Thursday. “(American Sign Language) is my first language. ... My family is completely deaf. I have one hearing sibling, but we all use American Sign Language to communicate.”
Gleicher graduated from Gallaudet University, a 150-year-old institution for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, in the spring of 2013 with a bachelor’s in communication studies. She has been involved with the National Association of the Deaf since high school.
During college, Gleicher was crowned Miss Deaf Maryland and then Miss Deaf America in 2012. Since then, the 22-year-old has traveled the country making appearances and volunteering in local communities. Her platform focuses on early literacy for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
“I strongly believe that deaf adults need to be involved in our young children’s lives by exposing them with literacy,” Gleicher said. “We all have capabilities to influence and encourage them to become literate. In exchange, these young children will be able to help and lead the deaf community in the future.”
Gleicher was able to communicate over the phone through Video Relay Service, a free service that connects an interpreter to her via webcam and through email.
“One of my points in my presentation will point out the fact that you don’t have to be a movie star to make an influence,” Gleicher said. “If a person like me is capable of making great influences to others, then you can, too.”
The Miss Deaf America contest has been conducted for 40 years and has been open to young women ages 18 to 28 with specific criteria, Gleicher said. Starting this summer, the National Association of the Deaf is changing the format of the program to allow a wider range of people — men and women ages 18 to 30 — to participate, making Gleicher the last to wear the Miss Deaf America crown. The new program will debut at an association conference this summer, she said.
Gleicher’s presentation will be during a VIP reception at 7 p.m. at Belly Up Aspen. Two VIP tickets will cover the cost of one scholarship for a winter Aspen Camp participant, according to a statement.
After the reception, Eagles tribute band the Desperados will take the stage for a concert open to all ticketholders. Sign-language interpreters will join the band on stage to make the music accessible to everyone.
De’f Jam is the Aspen Camp’s annual winter benefit. The Aspen Camp, in Old Snowmass, offers outdoor adventures and other programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults, as well as children of deaf adults hearing people who want to learn sign language and others.