President of Tarleton ASL Club finalist in the student category of the Oticon Focus on People Award


Photo courtesy of Sara Rodriguez

Sara Rodriguez, Tarleton student and ASL Club President, winner of the Freshman Leadership and Earl Rudder awards for the year 2020.

Tarleton student and American Sign Language Club President, Sara Rodriguez, is a finalists for the Oticon Focus on People Award.

The award is a student community, academic, social activity and advocate award. There are 12 finalists in four divisions; students, adults, advocates and hearing care practitioners. Rodriguez is one of the three finalists in the student division.

The Oticon is a company located in New Jersey that provides hearing aids and cochlear implants of all kinds. Oticon does not manufacture the cochlear implants. the  As stated on their website, their mission is to challenge conventions and push the limits of technology to change the lives of people with hearing loss. Their vision is a world where hearing loss has no limitation.

The Student Oticon Hearing Award for the Deaf, is a part of the Oticon Focus on People Awards.

According to their website, the awards recognize outstanding people, who are helping to show that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a positive difference, in their families, communities or the world. Life-changing technology opens a world of possibilities for people with hearing loss, and these awards honor the remarkable individuals who have turned those possibilities into realities to make the world a better place for everyone.

“They have audiologists and do the best they can to make sure that Deaf people get the devices they need in order to connect with the world,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez was nominated by a good friend of hers, Emma Faye Rudkin, who received the award this past year. Rudkin also owns a non-profit organization that advocates for Deaf people. For the nomination process, Rudkin submitted information about Rodriguez for consideration and the people from Oticon reviewed all the applications until they decided on finalists. Now, people can go vote on who the award goes to.

Rodriguez is a sophomore Biomedical Science Pre-Med major from San Antonio.

She was born Deaf in both ears and had to be delivered three months prematurely due to a lack of nutrients.

“I have been an easy target all my life, being bullied and left out. No one invited me to parties or hangouts and teachers sat me in the corner telling me I could not understand. Of course, my parents did their best to be there for me, but I wanted to fit in; to belong,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that she finally began to feel welcomed when she met her Deaf best friend from high school and Rudkin.

“I started speaking for different organizations and advocating for the Deaf. I became the role model that I would have wanted to have growing up,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez started the ASL club to spread awareness of hearing loss and help build a community that engages all students including those with hearing loss. Rodriguez teaches ASL and works to provide signing for extracurricular events on campus. In order to help and support students who have difficulty hearing at a distance in large lecture halls, Rodriguez wrote and proposed a new school CART policy. This policy was passed through the Student Government Association to improve closed captioning on campus and in class. Rodriguez is currently working on it more with Dr. Kelli Styron, who is the Vice President for Student Affairs.

Rodriguez is also a member of Alpha Gamma Delta and is involved in the Baptist Student Ministry and the Student Government Association. She has also won various awards through Tarleton, including the Emerging Leader and Leadership & Service awards.

“I would really appreciate peoples votes. I know it is a lot to ask but to have these votes would mean the world to me,” Rodriguez said.

You can vote for Rodriguez by going to The voting for this award closes on Nov. 16, 2020.