Discover Your Island

Recent Islander Grad Leaves Sign Language Legacy with Happy Hands Club

May 20, 2016

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Hooman “Brody” Hajebian, who graduated from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biomedical Science on Saturday, May 14, is leaving behind a legacy in the Happy Hands Club, a student organization that is working to spread deaf culture to the campus community.

Hajebian grew up with two deaf parents and American Sign Language (ASL) was his first language. He didn’t realize his home life was any different until he started preschool.

“I saw all the other kids talking and communicating and I couldn’t articulate my words like they could,” said Hajebian. “Essentially, I was a deaf kid. I was in English as a Second Language classes until the first grade when I finally caught up with my peers.”

The creation of Happy Hands was a long time in the making, an idea Hajebian first thought of his freshman year, but because he needed to focus entirely on his studies, it wasn’t until his junior year that he began to work on forming the club. He asked Dr. Jennifer Epley, Assistant Professor of Political Science, to be the faculty advisor.

“It took me an entire semester to draft the constitution because she wouldn’t sign it until it was perfect,” said Hajebian. “Dr. Epley wanted to make sure the club would be sustainable and also fit in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Hajebian officially began to hold club meetings in spring 2016. During his time as president, he taught club members sign language and about deaf culture.

“Each club meeting, I prepared a lesson, which included a set of about twenty words and a set of sentences using the new words,” said Hajebian.

While initially satisfied with more Islander students learning about ASL and deaf culture, Hajebian would ultimately like to see Happy Hands create greater change in the University.

“In the long term, I would like for the stigma that deaf students currently carry to disappear,” he said. “I would like for people to realize that they are just like every other student. They just can’t hear. Like when I put in my headphones. I’m still just as competent.”

Happy Hands recently won the Student Engagement and Success “Student Organization of the Year,” even though the club has only been a functioning organization for a single semester.

“We got a really nice plaque for winning,” said Hajebian. “I took a picture of it and sent it to my dad and he got really emotional.”

Hajebian has his sights on medical school. His ultimate goal is to work as a physician and work with deaf people in his community.

“I want to help bridge the gap between medicine and the deaf,” said Hajebian. “I feel like that would make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

Hajebian will be handing the reins of Happy Hands to a new president, Joshua Thompson, who is double majoring in mathematics and computer science. Thompson is also not deaf, but has formed a great appreciation for the deaf community and ASL during his time in the club.

“I wasn’t aware of the deaf community that’s present here in Corpus Christi before joining the club,” said Thompson. “In the beginning, everything was new for me, and I realized how much I enjoyed learning how to sign.”

Thompson said he plans to grow Hajebian’s dreams for the club.

“We would like Happy Hands to be more available and well known in the University,” said Thompson. “It would be ideal if we could get more campus involvement in our events and volunteer work.”

Those interested in joining Happy Hands Club are invited to attend the biweekly Thursday meetings beginning in the fall 2016 semester. For more information, contact Joshua Thomson at joshuathompson1001@yahoo.com; or visit https://www.facebook.com/happyhandstamucc/.