American Sign Language (ASL) landed Kaitlyn Persico in the White House.
Persico fell in love with ASL in middle school when she met a girl who was Deaf while participating in a group that tutored children of whom English was their second language.
Persico desperately wanted to communicate with her so she learned a few signs. When she began taking ASL in Massapequa High School, she was hooked.
“I just thought the language was so beautiful,” said Persico. “I took classes in New York City on the weekends and we would interact with the Deaf community and do movie night, bingo night and pasta night.”
It was then that Persico decided to attend Gallaudet University-a college designed to be barrier-free for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students—to become a school psychologist for the Deaf. All of her classes were taught in ASL.
While in school, she interned at Mill Neck Services’ Day Habilitation program, where Deaf and disabled adults learn life skills; was a substitute teacher in Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf; and a counselor for Mill Neck’s Sign Camp for Hearing Kids.
Persico also received an opportunity to intern at the White House in the Eisenhower Executive Office building where she acted as a customer service representative, answering phones, reserving meeting rooms, ordering supplies and more.
“I was able to walk around and see the other offices, it was so amazing,” she recalled. “We got to explore and make deliveries to the West Wing and the East Wing, so we weren’t always in our building.”
In fact, Persico was the only intern who knew ASL, which allowed her to make her way into the White House kitchen to communicate with one of their Deaf pastry chefs.
“No one else knew ASL so I was able to talk to her and help bake the Halloween and Christmas cookies.”
With an intense passion for ASL and psychology, Persico is attending graduate school at Gallaudet and hopes to one day work for Mill Neck as a psychologist for the Deaf.