Three Oklahoma School for the Deaf graduates will walk across the East Central University stage to receive their master’s degrees on Saturday, December 10.
The trio is currently employed by OSD, which is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
Sisters Trudy Lynn Fox Mitchell and Donna Fox Saaty, who reside in Ada, will earn their master’s degrees in human resources administration and human services counseling respectively.
Amanda Bowerman Chebultz, from Sulphur, will receive a master’s degree in educational leadership.
The women are OSD graduates who have been family or close friends for many years. They are united by sign language, deaf culture and their personal educational experiences at OSD that began between the ages of three and five.
“It is spectacular that the accomplishment of these three women comes after a lifetime of challenges and victories,” said Thomas Thompson, OSD Dean of Students, who mentored the three OSD staff and encouraged them to balance family, work and educational responsibilities to complete their educational goals. “Strength comes from being accepted (at OSD), having a safe place to learn and grow and overcoming self-doubt and feelings of defeat,” he explained. “We encouraged them and supported them and accommodated them -- at times we had to sit them down and say, “Don’t give up.
“And now Amanda, Trudy and Donna are glad they continued,” Thompson said. “Because OSD is their extended family, setting the example and demonstrating that OSD has provided a rich education foundation for academic success is a powerful motivation for other deaf students in Oklahoma.”
As a side note, the safety education that Saaty and Mitchell received at OSD was a lifesaver on a winter day in 1987. The girls, ages seven and nine, watched a captioned film at school about rescuing people trapped by winter weather conditions. That afternoon, Mitchell fell through the ice on a farm pond while looking for a lost dog. Saaty rolled on the ice and used a rope she brought for the dog to pull her sister to safety.
Mitchell, who graduated from OSD in 1999, previously earned an associate’s degree in child development from Tulsa Community College in 2009 and a bachelor’s of science in family consumer sciences (services to the deaf) at ECU in 2015. She is employed at OSD as a residential counselor and supervisor. Her husband Jimmy Mitchell is a 1999 OSD graduate who is employed by DRS as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. The Mitchells have two sons.
A 1998 OSD graduate, Saaty earned a bachelor’s in human services counseling (services to the deaf) from ECU in 2014. She is employed as a direct care specialist and works closely with OSD students in residential housing. Saaty is married to William Saaty, a 1994 OSD graduate. Two of their three children currently attend OSD. One son graduated from OSD in 2015.
Chebultz started school at OSD at age three and graduated in 1999. She earned a bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from ECU in 2009. She is elementary teacher and completed a practicum at OSD as assistant principal as part of her master’s requirements. Her husband Travis Chebultz is a former OSD student. They have four children. Three attend OSD.
“We are proud to have three OSD grads and current OSD employees complete their master’s at the same time,” OSD superintendent Larry Hawkins said. “These employees are already contributing at a high level to the educational program at OSD, but now deaf students can look up to them and know that they too can accomplish their educational goals if they’re willing to work hard.”
OSD has been headquartered in Sulphur since 1908 and operates two satellite pre-school programs in Edmond and Chickasha. The school provides educational programs for residential students, those who commute from home and summer school students at no charge. OSD has maintained a 100 percent graduation rate for six years. OSD offers thousands of outreach services, evaluations and onsite consultation to assist students attending local schools, their families, public school districts and communities statewide.