By Eliana Ayala
Dr. Tomás Garcia, born deaf, gained a new perspective on life after overcoming obstacles to become an American Sign Language professor and ordained deacon.
“My deafness gave me a broader understanding of the world. My deafness allowed me to listen with my heart.” Garcia said, using ASL.
As a Latino Garcia’s family had many pictures of Jesus displayed at the home.
“I thought he was my uncle” Garcia chuckled.
In the Latino culture religion is important but many families don’t have the ability to teach their deaf children about religion.
This was his inspiration to become a part of Holy Angels, a well known church in the deaf community. Garcia became the ordained Deacon in June 2016.
Garcia’s experiences motivated him to become a part of a sacred place where familiar deaf people can come together and learn the word of God at Holy Angels Church in Vernon.
Many churches now provide interpreters but this still doesn’t compare to the comradery of attending a service with a majority of deaf attendees.
A few deaf churches are within close proximity including Norwalk, Covina, Orange County and Riverside.
“As a psychology major, I believe that Religion is a great way to maintain one’s sanity” Garcia said.
After high school, he felt lost and college wasn’t in his plans at the time.
Garcia credits his uncle for encouraging him to attend college.
He looked up to his uncle for being the first person in his family to attend and graduate from college.
Garcia didn’t allow trials, such as audism (oppression of the deaf), tough classes or the awkwardness of communication barriers to disturb his ambition in obtaining an education.
It was a difficult experience in college, walking around with an interpreter by his side had other students assume conclusions.
“Growing up in Compton, people had low expectations.If it weren’t for my uncle I would’ve ended up in jail, dead or with 10 children,” Garcia said.
Garcia worked on a double major at Cal State University Dominguez Hills and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature and another B.A. in Chicano Studies in 1996.
He earned his Master’s degree at California State University Northridge in Special Education concentration Deaf Education in 1999.
He then continued in his pursuit for higher education at Pepperdine University where he earned his Doctorate Ed.D. in Education in 2003.
He beat the odds by becoming the fourth deaf Latino in the United States to earn a doctorate.
He is back in school working on a second Ph.D to become a Psychologist.
Garcia wants to fill the lack of psychologists that obtain the ability to sign and understand the deaf and Latino cultures.
He has been teaching at ELAC since 2009.
Chair of the Modern Language Department, Dr. Norma Vega says Garcia has been actively involved in the school’s ASL program by frequently reaching out to the Deaf Community and using outside resources to enrich students’ learning.
“He has certainly strengthened the program” said Vega.
The school is currently working on a program for a degree in ASL which was highly encouraged by Garcia.
His purpose in pursuing a career in teaching was to become a role model for other Deaf Latinos and prove that a Deaf Latino can become successful.