By Theresa Eru and Oba Aofolaju
Communicating with someone does not always involve speaking, and one of our newest staff members, Ms. Catherine Willett, is a walking example of this at Oakland Mills. Ms. Willett is an ASL interpreter for the new ASL (American Sign Language) teacher, Mr. Fenicle.
Growing up in the segregated south, specifically Mississippi with deaf parents, Ms. Willett had to overcome more challenges than the average person. In her childhood years, she lived with her aunt and uncle. This experience promoted her individuality and self-discovery. Although she is fully hearing, her parents made sure that communication was never a barrier. “Because they were deaf, they made sure that all of us could communicate with them by signing,” she said. This resulted in her learning ASL from a very young age. Family has always been one of her top priorities, especially now that she is a grandmother.
Ms. Willett is an alumni of Florida A&M University, where she majored in retail and fashion merchandising. She soon found out that that was not the path she wanted to take. After she graduated, she decided that she was going to move out of her aunt and uncle’s home and go and live with her parents. She became an interpreter because she wanted to communicate with her parents more. “The desire to get to know my parents and communicate with them one-on-one is how I got into the interpreting field.” Her kindness and compassion do not go unnoticed either.
Ms. Willett, an avid Hammond High supporter and a mother of three former students, says coming to Oakland Mills has been a very positive experience. “The overall feel of Oakland Mills has given me a different perspective.” She believes the Oakland Mills’ slogan, “We are strongest together,” really represents the school and how we as a community work hard together. The staff members she works with have been nice and she is glad she is able to work with them.
When asked what advice she would give the students of Oakland Mills, she said, “Make sure you focus and stay attentive to your education.” She said this because she was stressed while growing up and going to school. Ms. Willet expressed that she also wants to encourage young ladies to see their value.
We are proud to call Ms. Willett a member of the Oakland Mills High School community. Make sure you brush up on some phrases in sign language and encourage others to learn. Don’t be shy to wave “Hi” or sign “How are you doing today?” whenever you see her in the hallways.