Hala Somo in front of the Performing Arts building
American figure skater, Scott Hamilton once said, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” One Helix senior is taking that quote and turning it into a vivid reality.
Hala Somo is deaf. She grew up in Iraq where, as a child, she had no schooling or language and the only communication to her family and others was represented in a variety of gestures. Due to her father’s concerns with the dangers and risks of the war in their area, her family suddenly decided to reside in Syria for a year. Shortly after that, her family made the huge leap to relocate to the United States.
Translated through an interpreter, Somo said, “I was so excited that I got to go to school. I went to CPMA (Creative, Performing and Media Arts School) for two years and I finally learned sign language. I finally found out that I had my own language. That I am a deaf person and I could be proud of that.”
“That was really all I was looking forward to: an education,” she stated.
Recently at Helix, Somo took up the project to host the 8th annual American Sign Language (ASL) Rocks event, a celebration of the deaf culture and language with a huge gathering and performances from students and deaf guest speakers. The proceeds earned from the event went toward the costs of Deaf Prom, making the success of the project an absolute must. The program is usually only assigned to deaf students, and given the opportunity, Somo decided that the task would be perfect for her senior project.
“I wanted to encourage hearing people to get to know deaf culture and get involved with others,” Somo said of her motivation. “But, the time management was the hardest thing. I was always 40 minutes behind my schedule and it was hard to deal with,” she continued.
It seemed like that extra time Somo put into her project was worth it. Along with nearly 40 volunteers, the event was held on Sat., Feb. 21 in the Performing Arts building and it filled quickly. With over 400 tickets sold and even more people in attendance, ASL Rocks was a huge success.
Somo recalled, “It was so full. People just kept on buying tickets. We were trying to look for more available spots but we ran out of seats. The event was perfect.”
Paulina Huezo, a senior and third year ASL student who attended the show, enthusiastically agreed. “I thought it was amazing. How she incorporated everything, the culture, and the language was just really awesome,” she said, “The facial expressions and everything that goes along with sign language was there and it was super cool.”
Another third year student, junior Sara Alshaheri, said, “Everyone was just there to experience the culture and people of sign language. I enjoyed being a part of it and seeing if I can understand and keep up with their signs.”
“Hala did such an amazing job. She was absolutely the best host ever. She was enthusiastic and involved and she was just great at everything. She is an angel from above,” Alshaheri commented with a laugh.
Somo’s grand success, however, drove a lot deeper than just increasing her prom’s budget. As a deaf individual, it is common for others to underestimate her ability to accomplish large tasks. Somo is the type of person to set those people straight.
“I proved to [people] that I can do it. I can do anything. I took up the job, I did everything I could for the hearing and the deaf people, so I proved them wrong,” Somo said.
Huezo believes along the same lines. “Deaf people can do anything else that others can do. All they can’t do is hear and that is nothing.They are just like anyone else,” she said. “Really it isn’t the disability that makes people disabled. People make people disabled. They are all such amazing people and should be treated as such.”
It seems as if for Hala Somo, her determination to educate and involve people in ASL culture will not stop here.
After high school, Somo will be attending CSU Northridge and, as of right now, isn’t exactly sure of what the future holds for her.
“I plan on either becoming a lawyer or a defendant for the deaf community…or I can maybe become an actor. I’m not sure yet,” Somo said with a smile. “I’m going to continue reading, writing, and learning all the different languages.”
One does not just simply meet people like Hala Somo everyday. It is clear that her attitude and personality speak volumes.
“I will help people,” she stated with her hands and one shouldn’t expect anything less.