Today, 22-year old Misty Mullen is a leader in her church, an advocate of deaf culture awareness, a member of the Signs of the Time deaf choir and a compassionate and supportive young lady. Though this holds true today, Misty will tell you it wasn’t always the case.
Misty is a deaf student at the Southwest Center for Higher Independence (SCHI), a transitional education center for young adults with disabilities. At SCHI, students learn life and vocational skills and gain the confidence to live independently.
During a recent interview with Misty, Methodist Mission Home (MMH) Chaplain Carol Williams, sign- interpreting for Misty, appeared as though she were going to burst when Misty kept selling herself short.
“You have so much more to say and have changed so much since coming here, Misty. I shouldn’t be the one talking but I will if you don’t spill the beans,” she signed jokingly to her. Smiling shyly, Misty relaxed and began to share how she became the young woman she is today.
In Fort Worth, Texas, Misty was born deaf into a family of three — mom, dad and older sister, followed by a baby brother less than a year later, all of them hearing individuals. Growing up, she says she didn’t like herself very much.
“I resented the fact that I was deaf. I couldn’t accept myself the way I was.” That, combined with the many restrictions enforced by her parents on what she could do and who she could be with, Misty often found herself very bored and restless – and that resulted in trouble.
While she had many friends at school and acknowledges that school was important, it was not where she wanted to be spending her days. Part of it had to do with the difficulties teenagers often create for those who are different, and Misty found herself in the middle of the ugliness at times.
“I would get into arguments with people at school because I was a very angry person back then. I didn’t know how to control my emotions,” she said. As challenging as school was, Misty recalls fondly the times she would serve as an assistant to her Special Education teachers.
“When they needed help explaining things to the freshmen, I loved jumping in to help out.”
After graduating from high school but not ready to go to college, and much less live on her own, Misty was excited to learn about SCHI while discussing options with her Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) social worker. She was convinced this was where she needed to be and, in March 2011, she moved into the SCHI dormitory, anxious to begin the next step of her journey. The classes and change of lifestyle at SCHI challenged Misty, although only in the best possible ways.
“I was stubborn when I first started,” she said. “I didn’t want to follow any rules or listen to anyone.” It wasn’t until Misty attended Walk with Jesus, a retreat on the MMH campus that offers people a chance to begin a relationship with God, when Misty realized she needed to change. Her blossoming faith has given her a new perspective on life and she looks forward to continuing to mature while learning to live independently.
SCHI students take a variety of classes but Misty maintains the one taught by trainer Wanda Poppell was the most beneficial for her. Proclaiming the mantra, “You Can Do It,” to all her students, Wanda teaches students money management and technology skills. Knowing her achievements have come with the support and guidance of many, Misty now strives to give back to others.
“I am a lot more optimistic and confident in myself now,” Misty added. And with her confidence, she has developed a true passion for giving people insight into the deaf culture.
“I am now proud to be deaf and I’ve noticed that people’s perception on our culture can be misconstrued sometimes,” she said. “I really want them to understand that we are just like people who can hear. We can get a job, drive a car and have a great time. We just communicate in a different language.”
In the future, when Misty has her own children, she wants to be able to teach them how to be great people. She wants to become a nurse and help those in need. Her dream one day is to travel to all 50 states.
Asked if she were looking forward to graduating this June, Misty paused, smiled and said, “Yes, I am very excited. I look forward to the future and will take all the great advice and skills I have received at SCHI and do amazing things. I know it.”