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June 5, 2006

Port Arthur's Washington shows signs of success

From: Port Arthur News, TX - Jun 5, 2006

Washington waves good-bye to MHS, signs hello to Lamar University

Ashley Sanders
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Loretta Washington believes God has always had a plan for her daughter.

When Shayna Elyse Washington was brought into this world 18 years ago, the beautiful, healthy baby girl came in kicking and screaming.

“Shayna was not born deaf,” Loretta Washington explained as she sat next her daughter on a couch in her Port Arthur home last week. “She caught Meningitis at 10 months old and she lost her hearing.”

While never knowing the beautiful words to be spoken by her Angelic child, Loretta Washington never lost sight of her faith in God. Instead, the proud, courageous mother encouraged her daughter to follow her dreams and to never let the world tell her she was different.

“I like going to school,” Loretta translated for Shayna through sign language. “I am excited about going to college.”

Shayna is not heading to Lamar University, however, on a free pass. The former Memorial Titan earned the 4.6 high school grade point average that got her into college the hard way — through constant study and the strictest discipline.

“She has a quirk about only getting A’s,” Loretta jest about her daughter. “She studied all the time. Even on Saturday’s she would have her books out, open on the table and the whole time she would be telling me she wished she was at school.”

According to Shayna, it was her mother who inspired her to excel in her studies.

“When I was a kid growing up in California, I dropped out of school in the 10th grade to take care of my parents,” Loretta Washington recounted. “I didn’t get my GED or just not finish. I went back to school two years later and I got my high school diploma.”

Loretta said Shayna has kept that hard earned diploma on her dresser for the past several years as a reminder of her own future potential.

“I would put little notes on the diploma that would say ‘go get your own.’ Just things to encourage her to keep her head up,” Loretta said. “And when she finally got her diploma last week, I was probably the proudest parent at that graduation.”

With only a few months separating Shayna from the transition of a high school graduate to a college freshman, Loretta Washington said her daughter will not be sitting back and taking it easy this summer like other young adults in the area.

“She is dead-set on learning how to drive,” Loretta said as she shook her head in disbelief. “The whole idea makes me nervous. She is my baby and I worry.”

Because she is hearing impaired, Loretta said there are additional obstacles in teaching Shayna to drive aside from the usual parent’s nerves and jitters.

“She has found a class in Austin,” Loretta said. “I am all for her going. I don’t want to teach her myself. I would be beside myself with fear. Shayna is a speed demon!”

The anxious mother said she knows Shayna will fare well as a driver, however, because her daughter has always had a fearless spirit.

“Shayna is the type of person that will succeed at whatever she puts her mind to. When she was a little girl and wanted to learn how to swim there weren’t any swimming classes that would take her because she was deaf,” Loretta Washington said.

“So she just decided one day while we were living in our apartment in California that she would jump in the pool and teach herself. I of course panicked, but then here came Shayna swimming from the deep end of the pool to the shallow. Something’s come hard for her, but she doesn’t let that slow her down.”

Refusing to accept defeat is one of Shayna Washington’s strongest features. The bright eyed scholar will go after a two-year early childhood degree at Lamar University this fall.

Upon graduation from college, Shayna said she plans to open a day care facility that accepts all children — especially those who are hearing impaired.

Contact this reporter at or (409) 721-2427.

© 2006, The Port Arthur News