IM this article to a friend!

June 22, 2005

'Outstanding' UR student helps deaf people

From: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - Rochester,NY,USA - Jun 22, 2005

Cynthia Benjamin
Staff writer

Something happened to Tamala David this spring, but the wife and mother of three is so busy she can hardly recall what it was.

"Oh yes, I had another birthday in April,'' says David, ''so I'm 30. No -- I'm 31. Yes, I'm 31 now.''

Her age is one of the few things David can't recall on a moment's notice. When she mentions the list of things she's involved in, it's understandable.

Let's see, she is a master's and doctoral student at the University of Rochester's School of Nursing. She's a fluent sign language interpreter active in Rochester Black Deaf Advocates, a local nonprofit group, and she is working with UR researchers on a project for the deaf.

She is a self-employed community health nurse who works with Medicaid patients in the African-American community. She's involved in the American Heart Association. She helped found Soul Fitness Inc., a nonprofit mobile fitness exercise company.

"She's awesome,'' said Jane Tuttle, associate professor in UR's School of Nursing. Tuttle is also part of the pediatric department and is co-director of the family nurse practitioner program, where David is enrolled.

"She's one of these people who has an unlimited capacity for making things happen,'' Tuttle said. "She manages to get so much high quality work done with a lot of other things going on. She's got young children and is able to keep up with a very demanding and rigorous academic program that combines the master's with the doctorate.''

That's why Tuttle and others recommended David for the 2005 Outstanding Student Award, which she won this spring.

She was among several students honored by the Rochester Area Colleges Continuing Education Association.

"I was surprised,'' David said humbly, and pleased to be honored.''

So, how does she do it all?

"Time management is key,'' said David, a Rochester native and resident who graduated from East High School. "You can't do everything _ that's a given. You have to say, 'What are some of the things I must do?'''

A city girl

David is the middle sibling in her family, with an older sister and a younger brother.

She says her parents, Cynthia and Robert Byrd of Rochester, raised their children in church and instilled Christian values, such as helping people in need and not being judgmental of others.

Cynthia Byrd took her children on frequent outings to places such as the zoo, the park, the library. Because of an interest in the community, the young mother also took her children to school board meetings and City Council meetings.

"I went as an observer,'' said Byrd. "We went a lot of places when she was little. She was fascinated.''

David's paternal grandparents were deaf and her grandmother taught her sign language.

"She wasn't highly educated, so it was a little different than what the deaf community uses,'' said David. "So I went to NTID (National Institute for the Deaf) and learned a lot more. I was interested in that.''

As she watched her grandmother's health decline, David desired to help seniors who are African American and deaf.

But she wasn't sure how.

"While I was a student at NTID, an advocate came to a class and talked about Rochester Black Deaf Advocates.''

The group helps African Americans who are deaf by advocating for their rights. David not only works with the group but also is part of a national subcommittee focused on deaf health research for people from all backgrounds.

"She's one who has always totally focused on the goal,'' her mother said. "Tamala doesn't see obstacles. She has no understanding of obstacles.''

David is married to Steven David of Rochester and is the mother of three daughters, Cocoa Rae, 12; Ginger Renee, 10; and Cinnamon Rayne, 8.

She earned a bachelor's degree in nursing and a master's in public administration at the State University College at Brockport, and is finishing work on a dual degree program at UR. She's a group leader for UR's Positive Adolescent Life Skills Project, a research project that promotes healthy lifestyles among urban teens.

"She sets standards,'' said Byrd. "She's a very unselfish person, and she doesn't want any recognition.''

Copyright 2005 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.