When Celine Lobban started her studies at the University of Technology, Jamaica, in 2017, she was the only deaf person in her year group in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science.
Lobban knew from the start that it would be an uphill task, but she was reluctant.
It was during the third form at Denbigh High School in Clarendon that she lost her ability to hear after years of wearing a hearing aid, so she already experienced what it was like to be in a classroom and not be able to communicate.
Talk to The Gleaner through an interpreter at her graduation ceremony on Friday, the 25-year-old said the communication barrier often makes her feel isolated.
“I sometimes felt lonely because I was the only deaf student in the whole class. I wanted to form connections, I wanted to communicate with them, but it was difficult because they could hear and I was deaf,” said Lobban.
Despite the challenge, Lobban chose to focus on her dream of working in the IT industry. It was a passion sparked by a teacher at the JAD May Pen Unit for the Deaf, to which she had transferred from Denbigh High.
One of her teachers inspired her to attend UTech and made sure she did well academically to matriculate.
She also attended the Lister Mair/Gilby School for the Deaf in Kingston to pursue subjects that were not available at the JAD May Pen Unit for the Deaf.
Her academic performance was rewarded with a scholarship from the National Commercial Bank, which financed her university fees.
For her father, retired police officer Evon Lobban, the scholarship was the financial miracle he had been praying for.
Since her school fees were taken care of, Evon said he made sure to support his daughter in every other way.
“At least four times a month, I check her to make sure everything is in order and I let her out, medically everything. I have a report with the university people who [if anything]e mi the call,” he said.
But Evon still has to find an interpreter for his daughter, which costs him up to $2,500 an hour. But he said it was worth it.
“She’s bright, man, and now she doesn’t fail a semester,” the proud father explained.
Evon’s dedication to his daughter did not go unnoticed, as Lobban said The Gleaner that he was the “foundation and the rock” that pushed her to finish her studies.
Lobban said her degree — a bachelor of science in computer studies with a major in information systems — set her on the path to creating the life she always wanted.
“I’m so happy. It means now I can finally achieve the things I set out to achieve. I can get the kind of job I want to get,” said Lobban, who is currently majoring in information technology at her alma mater, Lister Mair/Gilby School for the Deaf teaches.
“I am a person who has broken many barriers and therefore I would like my achievement, especially in this field, to influence other deaf persons to show them that they can be similarly successful,” she said.
And even as she celebrates this milestone, she hopes that the next deaf student who decides to attend a university in Jamaica will not be the only one in the class and benefit from more interpreters.
“Right now, in Jamaica, you don’t have many interpreters available, so when you think about going to university, the first thing a student thinks is, ‘Who will interpret for me?’ and then they also think about the financial aspect of what the deaf pay, because with a deaf person, if they can have the financial support for interpreters, that would be really important,” she said.