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November 6, 2004

Getting her message heard Miss Deaf America speaks at club event at community college

From: Waterbury Republican American, CT - Nov 6, 2004

By Michael Marie

Copyright © 2004 Republican-American

there's no swimsuit contest, and the contestants can't hear.

That's according to Erin Casler of Windsor. She's the National Association of the Deaf Miss Deaf America 2004-06.

Casler was the guest speaker Friday night for Northwestern Connecticut Community College's Northwest Deaf Club, which brings together deaf, hard-of-hearing and sign language students for cultural, social and recreational activities.

The purpose of her visit Friday was "to expose the people here in the community to the deaf culture and sign language," she said through her interpreter, Joy Valenti.

A self-described feminist, Casler doesn't think highly of the Miss America Pageant, and feels much more comfortable in her role as Miss Deaf America.

"I feel more related to the Miss Deaf America program because it's more of a leadership role," she said. "I'm more of a role model for young children."

Part of Casler's presentation Friday included a performance of "Tea With an Old Dragon," a story about Sophia Smith, a deaf woman who founded Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Smith is Casler's alma mater.

Casler was born in Syracuse, N.Y. Her family discovered she was deaf from an unknown cause when she was 6 months old. When she reached the fourth-grade, her family moved to Connecticut so she could become active with the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford. She also attended the Windsor public school system.

After graduating from Windsor High School in 1995, Casler went to Smith and earned a bachelor's degree in art history.

She now works at the American School for the Deaf as the organization's public information officer.

As Miss Deaf America, Casler travels around the country discussing her platform, violence against women and acting as an ambassador for the NAD.

The NAD, established in 1880, was formed to safeguard the civil rights of the country's 28 million deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens in education, employment, health care and telecommunications. Toby Morris / Republican-American Erin Casler, Miss Deaf America 2004-2006, visited the Northwest Deaf Club at Northwestern Connecticut Community College in Winsted Friday. The title is bestowed by the National Association of the Deaf. Casler, of Windsor, said she competed for the title to be an advocate for the deaf and because there was no swimsuit contest.

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