Jennifer Stanton is a very charming and bright eyed young African-American woman who has defeated all of the odds, by overcoming a disability that labeled her a mild-retardation, with a hearing lost in one ear, who was diagnosed, at a very young age, as suffering from lack of communication and comprehension skills. Today she is a teacher assistant- at a non-public high school called The Arrow Project Center located in Baltimore, Maryland. She holds two under-graduate degrees from Kean University located in Union New Jersey: one in elementary education and another in psychology.
I am, neither surprised nor amazed, when she tells me that she is currently attending John Hopkins University in Baltimore, working on a Master’s in Mild and Moderate Disability in Elementary Education. It is obvious that this young woman has had the fortitude to surpass many challenges. There is no doubt that she will prevail and arrive at her destination, prepared to do the many great things that she so desires.
Jennifer Stanton, the youngest of four children - one being her identical twin sister- was born on May 28, 1983 in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. Her parents divorced when she was only five. Her mother remarried when she was thirteen. She was raised by her step-father Alfred Brown, a Director for AT&T who encouraged her to always do her best and her mother Geraldine Stanton-Brown, an office clerk. My mother is a very strong woman, she smiles, and I believe that is where my strength and perseverance comes from. She is saddened-a little-when she tells me that she was a loner, while growing up, devoting most of her attention to sports and writing. It was difficult making friends because I couldn’t hear and had to fake it, she says. By learning to read lips and focusing more on the individual’s body language, I was able to communicate just as well as anyone else. I was determined to stay in school with my sister. The desire to want to stay in the public school system and be educated along side her twin sister Jacelyn, who is also a graduate of Kean University with an undergraduate degree in Marketing, encouraged her to do her best. To stay in the main stream of things was a challenge but something that she wanted to do, says Jennifer, to prove to myself and everyone else that I could succeed without any special needs aside from the classification classes that were required by the administration.
Suddenly she takes a deep breath and her body is stiff. As I watch her inhale, showing glimpses of a young woman, who is finally comfortable with herself, she begins to tell me that there were three stages of hurdles that she was determined to over come- as she remembers the classifications that were strapped to her, much like a saddle to a horse, at an early age. She spoke, with conviction, of classified classes from kindergarten through tenth grade, of which she attended alone, although most of her other classes were attended with her twin, at her parent’s, as well as, school advisor’s discretions. Her mother had wanted she and her sister to remain together as much as possible. Secondly, living at home among family and friends was more difficult than anything else because she often thought of how she would show others-who sometimes made her feel like she was being watched like sand through an hour glass- that she could make it on her own, with her a disability. Lastly, to prove to those individuals that was a part of a belligerent, educational system, of which she lacked confidence, because its practices were often belittling and disparaging. My courage and strength, she admits, came from family.
When asked about other jobs held or other interests, she comes alive-before me- with excitement, showing signs of a vivacious young woman, eager to make change. Her eyes are suddenly brighter and browner than ever. She studies the ceiling-of a very artsy but modern, yet contemporary apartment that –no doubt- reflects both she and her sister’s individual styles. There is the presence-now-of an extremely serious and confidant woman with a smile- exposing a set of evenly white teeth. Her incredible strength and solidarity is apparent. Her excitement and pride rises as she proceeds to tell me of the many jobs and interests held from the age of fifteen through eighteen. There was a time, she admits, that I could not find myself or interests, but those days are behind me now. She lifts her head, just a little and smiles as if she can feel the power within herself as she remembers the time when she was a councilor for the Y.M.C.A.’s Western Maryland Branch located in Catonsville (Young Men’s Christian Association), which is an ecumenical organization offering programming based on Christian values. She is candid when she continues to tell me that - The Y.M.C.A.’s mission often states: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind, and body, for all. Jennifer also worked summer programs for children whose parents were wounded and killed during 911. She tells me about the time she tutored all age groups for math and reading comprehension. She was Basketball Coach at A.A.U. (Amateur Athletic Union), Vice President for a dance group for a student organization called the P.A.S.U. (Pan-African Student Union). She was also an assistant for Basketball Clinic for adolescent boys- not to mention- a residence assistant for housing at Kean University and director of W.M.C.A., Maryland Branch.
Jennifer Stanton is currently a teacher assistant at a non-public high school( The Arrow Project Center in Baltimore) working on an assignment called Error Project, which is a special project for children that are behavioral emotional disturbed adolescence. She teaches math and also co-teaches therapy sessions.
Jennifer feels that her most important contribution to society is being able to provide the necessary skills to each individual child, with physical and mentally challenging difficulties. She wants them to become successful in society, without having to face the many challenges and road blocks that she encountered. There is a much better way and I am going to find a means of bringing that better way to light. Now, twenty four, she says that by the time she is thirty, she plans to open a facility for minorities that will include many resources and services for children and their parents. She is adamant when she says that she will incorporate a sports program, because of her love for sports. She will also implement methods of teaching health services.
I am fully aware that the interview has come to an end, once I see that Jennifer has folded her pampered and well manicured hands, neatly together, resting in her lap. She smiles, while her arched eyebrows are lifted. “Is there anything else that you’d like to add?” I ask. “No,” she smiles, “I think that I’ve told you everything.”