Brigette Jara is a Cinema Studies major at CSI.

Brigette Jara has big aspirations and high standards for herself.  The Cinema Studies major travels the globe in her spare time and dreams of teaching film production courses at the college level.

“I want to see everything and go everywhere!” said Jara who has recently been to Ecuador, Spain, and Italy, to name a few.  She is also a regular participant in filmmaking festivals for both people who are hard of hearing and deaf. She has also directed, produced, edited, and worked lights, sound, and other equipment for her films.

In her global travels, the College of Staten Island (CSI) student also makes it a point to visit the deaf schools in the area.  This is because Brigette Jara is a student who is deaf.

Jara began her studies at CSI in fall 2008, and she admits that in the beginning she did feel a bit nervous and isolated.

“When I first came to college, it was a struggle. I really didn’t think I was going to stay,” said Jara, who now carries a grade point average higher than 3.0 and has been involved in numerous CSI clubs such as the Japanese Visual Culture Club, American Sign Language Club, and the ALPHA Club.

Her first stop at CSI was the Center for Student Accessibility where she was able to request American Sign Language interpreters and connect with an academic counselor.

“The Center helped me so much. There, I met my first interpreter and she encouraged me to stay in college. Now, my academic counselor, Maria, helps me with my academics and accommodations, and lets me know I’m on the right path. The Center is wonderful,” commented the student who also utilizes the Center’s note-taking services.

As the first woman in her family to go to college, the native of Ecuador also wanted to be a good role model for her sister.

“I knew it was important for me to go to college, both for myself and so that I could be an example to my younger sister. I wanted her to see me succeed so that she would know that she could as well,” said Jara.  Her sister, Stephanie Michelle Jara, has just been accepted to CSI and is pursuing studies in social work.

Jara arrived in the United States from Ecuador when she was eight years old.  At the time, there was little to no education for deaf students in Ecuador.  She could not sign in English or Spanish, although she attempted to read lips. In the U.S., she was able to obtain an education and learn to sign. She attended the Lexington School for the Deaf and graduated from Susan Wagner High School.

Jara continues to work hard in college to independently navigate the academics as well as the social avenues.

“There are so many people here that it can be overwhelming. I have my own method. I sit in the front so I can see the teacher and the interpreter. I usually ask one student for their email address and phone number in case I miss a class. I try to chat with the other students, too.”

Jara observed that sometimes it seems that “students are afraid of me,” adding that they tend to text only and maybe connect on Facebook. “I try to help them learn signs, and they can certainly communicate with me using the interpreter,” she said, reflecting that one of her biggest accomplishments at CSI has been to gain confidence.

Her confidence was of particular use recently when she participated in the Mayor’s Disability Mentoring Day where she was placed at NBC in Manhattan for the day. (The CSA has worked collaboratively for several years with the Mayor’s Office in arranging internships for students with disabilities with much success.)

Jara is graduating with an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts in June and is continuing on for her Bachelor’s degree in Cinema Studies. She is also completing the requirements for the Modern China Studies Certificate so that she can study in China; there she will launch her new film project about China’s deaf culture.

Ms. Jara plans to pursue her graduate degree in Cinema Studies at New York University.

The Center for Student Accessibility is a part of the Division of Student Affairs.

As part of the Center for Student Accessibility’s (CSA) “My Story” campaign, the Center will regularly highlight high-achieving students who have overcome challenges and exhibit student success, including academic advancement, co-curricular commitment, and pre-professional training.