April 23, 2003
Aggie Profiles: Ronda Last
From: The California Aggie Online - Apr 23, 2003
By Dyanna Quizon
Aggie Features Writer
April 23, 2003 -
Fair Oaks, Calif.
School Psychologist by day
Instructor by night
Why she?s interesting:
A former UC Davis student who has been deaf since birth, Last has overcome prejudice, inadequate resources and outstanding hardships to become the only school psychologist who has been trained through a hearing graduate program. She graduated among the top of her class at San Francisco State University and is currently the only deaf psychologist who works in a hearing school district on the West Coast. ?My friends and family have told me that I was too progressive for my time,? Last said.
After missing a class and a weekly appointment with the Disability Resource Center coordinator, Last?s interpreter services were suspended for nearly three years while she attended class at UCD. Although the university gave her full interpreter services during her last two years, Last had to attend San Francisco State as an unclassified graduate student because of her dismal grades. During her second and third years at another graduate school, her professors refused to let her assess patients, counsel clients or hold parent information meetings because of her disability. After a long struggle, she proved her professors wrong by passing with flying colors. However, despite stellar reviews, she was unable to procure a job close to home and had to choose a position with the Natomas School District, located an hour away, after she offered to pay for interpreter services. ?I truly believe my deafness is not a disability,? Last said. ?It is the other person?s fear that disables them.?
Most Empowering Experience:
Last found her time at San Francisco State tremendously empowering. She was provided with assistants including around-the-clock sign language interpreters, stenographers and notetakers. She was able to maintain a 4.2 grade point average, which she said ?helped the healing process after my experience at UCD.?
Her main motivation was taking each situation as a learning and teaching experience. ?I never thought less of myself, and I wanted to show myself and others that I was equally as capable of doing the job instead of moping and getting upset about every god-awful experience I?ve had.? Last also credits her wonderful family and awesome husband as being pillars of strength for her. ?There is no such thing as coincidences,? Last said. ?Someone up there has given me so much to live for, and I?m sure he/she has many more opportunities for me to grow personally and professionally.?
Psychologist at Work:
Although she originally wanted to be an attorney, Last chose school psychology because she wanted to be an advocate for children with learning differences and other disabilities. She wants to help create an educational system that would view students with special needs as contributors to the future, show parents that their children can succeed with the proper tools and educate the administration on how to best serve these children. ?Your disability or difference is not what defines you, but how you choose to define yourself,? Last said. ?I see my deafness as a key to people?s minds, and if they are willing to open up to me, I am able to share with them as I am able to learn from them.?
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