Miss Deaf America 1996-98
|Meghan Rainone, Miss Deaf America 1996-1998, is majoring in Criminal Justice at Rochester Institute of Technology. She was the subject of DEAF LIFE's October 1996 cover story.
She told us: "I grew up in Marlton, a small town in southern New Jersey, near Philadelphia. I was born deaf. No one knows why-but it wasn't rubella. My sister Becky, 5 years older than me, was also born deaf, likewise from an unknown cause. After my parents discovered Becky was deaf, they were upset; they wanted to know why. They tried to learn all they could about deafness. There wasn't that much information readily available back then, in the early '70s. But they did what they could. And they learned to sign. Yes, I know that Becky and I were very lucky!
"We have always been very close, Becky and I. In fact, I entered the Miss New Jersey Pageant because Becky had competed twice, in 1989 and 1993, and she encouraged me to enter too. So I did, and won the Miss Deaf New Jersey title. And each state winner is automatically qualified to compete in the Miss Deaf America Pageant.
"Growing up, I was the 'little red devil' of the family. My sister, on the other hand, was the 'angel.' But she taught me that it was okay to 'color outside of the lines' sometimes.
"I was first enrolled in a preschool program for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, then attended the local public schools. Becky was mainstreamed through the 8th grade, then she went to the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf in West Trenton. I was mainstreamed right through high school-12th grade. She graduated from MKSD; I graduated from a "hearing" high school. Becky was more social than I was, and enjoyed participating in sports. She had a great social life at MKSD. I was more focused on schoolwork. Both of us did fine at our separate schools. We had fun comparing our experiences." Meghan had support services, including an interpreter who went everywhere with her, but participated in "regular" high-school activities-Flag Girls and lacrosse.
"I especially enjoyed mathematics and science, but after I entered RIT I decided to major in Criminal Justice, and [am thinking about] law school."
She appreciates the extensive support services offered by NTID. "I don't think I'll want to go into law enforcement (police work), but law-office work. I'll want to work with all kinds of clients."
Her prime "passion" is exercising. "I love mystery novels. I only regret I have so little time to read these days with all the homework I get! I [also] love shopping, eating gourmet food, seeing new places, and meeting new people."
Being MDA means getting plenty of practice "seeing new places" and "meeting new people." Weekdays and weeknights are devoted to schoolwork research. Weekends are for "MDA business." "I give talks at schools, to various groups: young people teachers, parents. What I talk about depends on the audience. Of course, I'm representing the NAD, so I talk about that."
She wears a hearing aid, is happy with her mainstream experience, has high praise for her parents ("the greatest parents a child could ever ask for-[they] respected every choice I made"), and proudly identifies as deaf.
Her philosophy: "Relax and enjoy life! You only have one opportunity to do so. Make the best of what you have."
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