MaNeesha McIlwain

A visit from an NTID admissions counselor to her high school in Knoxville, Tenn., piqued MaNeesha McIlwain’s interest in learning more about RIT/NTID. McIlwain, who is hard-of-hearing, felt a mainstream campus with a large number of deaf and hard-of-hearing students seemed like it would be a good fit.

The first quarter at RIT/NTID was an adjustment for McIlwain, 21, an Accounting Technology major.

“I was very shy when I came here,” she says, “but I was connected to the NTID Student Life Team shortly after my arrival. They quickly got me engaged in extracurricular activities on campus, and soon I forgot about being homesick.”

McIlwain is president of the NTID Ebony Club, has worked as a camp counselor for Explore Your Future and Summer Vestibule programs, and currently is a peer mentor for NTID’s Step-Up program, an organization for deaf and hard-of-hearing African-American, Latino, Asian and Native American students who are undecided on a major.

She recently was recognized as an NTID Student Ambassador for her leadership skills and her successes in and out of the classroom.

McIlwain says she’s learned to manage her time wisely so that she doesn’t feel stressed out.

She is considering pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business.

"I’d like to go into cosmetology, and a bachelor’s degree will prepare me better for managing a hair studio and supervising others,” she says.

When she’s not working on campus, she enjoys cutting, coloring, permming and styling her friends’ and family members’ hair. Shopping, baking and texting are other favorite pastimes.

“RIT/NTID has given me the ability to expand my horizons and learn more about my Deaf culture,” she says. “The opportunity to meet a diverse group of students who are very different from back home has been so rewarding, and a learning experience.”

This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

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