Despite being deaf, Nancylynn Ward was on her college debate team. "It was an experience for everyone. They never had a deaf person on the team," said Ward, who graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1989 with a major in speech communications.
Ward, who has been deaf since birth, communicates through sign language. The debate team provided her with an interpreter.
Ward, 22, used her communication skills recently to win the Miss Deaf America crown in Indianapolis. She competed against 33 deaf women from throughout the United States, and used the occasion to urge the deaf and others to learn to communicate with each other. "It is OK to be different, but because we are different there is no reason for the hearing community to shut us out," she insisted.
The Miss Deaf contest, which is held every two years, rates contestants on such skills as dancing, public speaking (through interpreters) and dramatic performances. "There were absolutely no bathing suits," Ward said.
Ward is employed as a program specialist with Awakenings, a drug and alcohol abuse recovery project for the deaf and hard of hearing in Downey. She has worked there since graduating from college, helping develop an anti-drug and alcohol program for deaf youths.
Ward will be departing next month, however, to take a new job in Washington state. She has been hired as a consultant for the Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Olympia, Wash., to create an anti-substance abuse program for students in grades 7 through 12 in public schools.
Ward also plans to return to college to get a master's degree, perhaps in public administration.
And she will keep busy making public appearances as Miss Deaf America for the next two years. She said her role as Miss Deaf America is to "tear down the barriers between the hearing community and the deaf. It is important to let the hearing world know that we are proud and that there is nothing wrong with being deaf."
Long Beach native Jennifer Miller Smith has been named the Big Sister of the Year, the highest honor given by the National Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.
The award is given to adult volunteers who spend time with boys and girls from single-parent homes. Smith, who lives in Bozeman, Mont., was matched with little sister Nancy Arthur of Three Forks, Mont., more than six years ago. During those years they shared a wide range of experiences, from skiing to sewing, Smith said.
Smith and Arthur will attend a White House ceremony Nov. 13 with President Bush. Smith and her husband, Rick, are fly-fishing guides. They have a son, Peter, 3.
Smith attended Los Cerritos Elementary, Hughes Junior High and Long Beach Polytechnic High schools. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from Vassar College in New York. Her father is Long Beach attorney John D. Miller.
Long Beach resident Karyl Kawaichi is one of the featured skaters now appearing at the Ice Capades "Golden Anniversary Edition" at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood. A 1979 graduate of Millikan High School, Kawaichi, 29, has toured with the Ice Capades since 1983.
* Elmer A. Omohundro is the new chief of campus police for Cerritos College. Omohundro retired as a captain from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department after 31 years. He replaces Mike Gobec, who retired. Omohundro has a bachelor's degree in public management from Pepperdine University.
* Karen King has been appointed director of operations for Long Beach Transit. King, a graduate of the University of Utah, has been with the municipal transit company since 1986.
* Yvonne Avila has been named director of communications for the Port of Long Beach. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Avila has worked as a reporter for the Tulsa Tribune.
* Geri Johnson, Miriam Garcia and Michael Smith have been selected Teachers of the Year by the Long Beach Unified School District.
Johnson, a computer teacher at Newcomb Elementary School, has been teaching for 22 years. She has led workshops for other teachers and designed curriculum for the district.
Garcia is a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School. She has been teaching for 10 years, and has produced a weekly newsletter to encourage parents to get involved in their children's education.
Smith, a health education teacher at Wilson High School, helped establish a pilot program on teen-age suicide prevention. He was recently named the health teacher of the year by the California Assn. of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Board. He has been with the district since 1963.