It was a surprise to Kate and Troy Lindsey when their son, Alec, announced he was going to compete in the Mr. Deaf Teen America contest.
He is a rather shy young man, his mother said. She and her husband supported him but said they hadn’t expected him to participate in such an event.
“We thought maybe someone talked him into it because we didn’t think he would ever think of something like this on his own,” she said.
It turns out, the Butler County teen did quite well.
Alec, 17, of Winfield, and his partner in the competition, Megan Majocha, 17, of Plum, were crowned Mr. and Miss Teen Deaf America on March 30 in Riverside, Calif. Both are juniors at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Alec also attends Knoch High School and Megan attends Plum High School.
Vicki Cherney, the School for the Deaf's director of marketing, said the pageant was created in 1999 at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., to promote emerging leaders with the hopes that they will help bring about a stronger deaf community. Through the pageant, students have the opportunity to develop leadership qualities, learn teamwork and social skills, enhance their self-esteem and appreciate diversity.
Both students were interviewed via email.
Megan said she competed to be a role model for other deaf students.
“I went to California to compete for Miss Deaf Teen America for greater challenge," she said. "I wanted to compete for my personality growth, to show who I am, and to expose others more about deaf community."
Alec became deaf when he was 14 months old after suffering from meningitis. His parents and two siblings have hearing. Megan was born deaf, and her parents, Alan and Jan Majocha, also are deaf. She has two siblings — both who have hearing.
Megan and Alec prepared for the pageant by practicing at night for the various segments of the competition — talent, state spirit, formal wear and a platform presentation.
“Megan and I practiced a lot to feel confident in the competition,” Alec said.
For their platform presentation, Megan said they had to choose a topic that relates to teenagers.
“We chose media, because we felt it was necessary to educate people about how the media use Photoshop and any photo editors to edit pictures to put in magazines, commercials, movies, etc., causing teenagers to feel the pressure to look like the figures in media,” she said.
The competition did not cost the families anything other than purchasing the formal wear.
Ms. Cherney said the students’ other expenses were covered by fundraisers at the school.
Megan and Alec were chaperoned by deaf staff members Tom Halik and Venita Smith — something Mrs. Lindsey felt was an important learning experience for her son.
“This was the first trip that Alec has taken with non-hearing people. If I had gone, I would have been taking care of things for him and telling him what to do," she said. "I think this was so good for him.”
Megan and Alec are involved in other activities, so it was challenging to fit in their preparation for the competition.
“Preparing was stressful since I play sports and had homework to do,” said Megan, who also is active in clubs at both of her schools.
“My sister, Mandy, and I also set up an American Sign Language Club at Plum Senior High School recently,” she said. Megan also has a brother, Max.
Alec is also involved in activities at both of his schools.
“When they announced that we won, I was just so shocked. I couldn't believe it," Alec said. "After that, I couldn't stop smiling due to how thrilled I was.”
Megan had similar feelings.
“I felt thrilled. I can hardly describe how I feel the moment I won; it was surreal," she said. "Right now, I feel proud to represent the deaf community.”
Both won scholarships and will represent the deaf community at various events.
Megan said she hopes to attend Gallaudet University, majoring in medicine. Alec said he hopes to attend Rochester Institute of Technology to become a CGI animator.
The teens said they feel this role helps others understand the deaf community better.
“We want others to know that it doesn't matter if we can't hear," he said. "We can do many things hearing people can also do.”
For Megan, this is just the beginning. She plans to compete in the Miss Deaf America competition in the future.
“I’m proud to represent the deaf community,” she said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.