Despite being hearing-impaired, local girl graduates with honors

By MICHELLE BEAHM | Staff Writer

Brittany Austin, a South Kitsap local, has just earned her bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York.

She grew up in South Kitsap, but started her education in Seattle at the Northwest School for the Hearing Impaired, along with her twin brother, where they learned a foundation in written and spoken English, as well as advanced sign language.

Eventually, the twins were able to transfer to schools in the South Kitsap School District. They finished their elementary education at Hidden Creek Elementary, went to junior high school at Marcus Whitman, and for their sophomore year of high school, they went to South Kitsap High School.

For the last two years, they attended Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing program offered there.

“It was challenging for SK to be able to accommodate the deafness more than anything because they were high level,” said Donnalee Austin, their mother. “They couldn’t even find a sign interpreter for them, so we had to send them out of district for the last couple high school years.”

To help supplement the twins’ education, the twins were enrolled in the University of Washington's DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) program, which is a program that works to “increase the success of people with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers,” according to the website,

“The DO-IT program probably had a large impact on helping change their direction and getting into college and that kind of thing, and it gave them confidence,” said Donnalee.

After earning her high school diploma in 2008, Brittany accepted an academic scholarship from RIT, where she majored in psychology and minored in criminal justice. She graduated with honors from the New York based school.

“Being a child going through a school district with special needs, I think it totally influenced how she got along with other people,” said Donnalee, explaining why her daughter decided to major in psychology.

Brittany is in the process of taking a Graduate Record Examinations test, a requirement for many graduate schools. Afterward, she plans on continuing her education to get her doctorate in behavior analysis.


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