On a Smooth Slope
by Gillian Econopouly '02
When sophomore Kelley Duran begins a skiing race, she waits for a quick update about the course, a report about the snow quality and most of all, the final countdown to takeoff. "Usually when the interpreter signs 'three,' I start counting down myself," Duran says. Why the interpreter? Because while other skiers communicate with their coaches via radio, Duran is deaf and relies on an interpreter for valuable pre-race advice. "My interpreter stands at the top of the course to give me information-if a turn is harder than we thought or something," Duran explains.
Duran, who has been deaf from birth, is a psychology major from North Fayston, Vermont. She is about to start her second season of Smith skiing and has already been named team captain. Last year, Duran became only the fourth woman in Smith history to earn All-American skiing status, after placing 13th in the slalom event at the National Skiing Championships in Idaho.
As ski coach Steve Samolewicz explains, Duran's accomplishment is exceptional. "All-American status is a very significant achievement in ski racing," he says, emphasizing that Duran competed among the top 100 skiers in the country.
Samolewicz attributes Duran's success
to hard work
Teammate and co-captain Katie Horton '04 agrees. "The thing that most amazes me about Kelley is that you would think she'd get really frustrated having some people at races not used to the interpreter or having to look right at her to talk. But she just somehow keeps this amazing positive and bright attitude towards everybody," Horton says. "Kelley's a great leader that way and I think she's a great mentor for the attitude that's best in sports."
Just as Duran has faced difficulty on the ski slope, she has found both academics and day-to-day life at college to be challenging-though not inconquerable. While she communicates with hearing students by speaking aloud and reading lips, Duran explains that being deaf makes some things, like social events, difficult. "Sometimes at dinner, it might be hard for me to understand what everyone is saying," she says. "It's difficult to lip-read, especially when I'm tired." Duran explains that while she always has an interpreter available for class, she has to plan a week in advance to attend a play or lecture so that an interpreter will be present.
Having learned to sign at the age of one, Duran attributes much of her success in overcoming such difficulties to her family's support. "My mom always made sure I went to the best schools," she says. "She did a lot of research when she found out I was deaf and learned how to best raise a deaf child. That was a big part of my education." By the time she entered high school, Duran attended classes with hearing students and had adjusted well to the challenge. At Smith, however, she was presented with a new set of demands.
"In high school, I could deal
with things and then go home and be with my family and forget
about them. Here, I have to deal with everything day and night,"
she says. Duran also feels challenged to educate the college
community about deafness. "People have stereotypes about
deaf people," she says. "I have to deal with that and
tell people that not all deaf people are the same-we're individuals."
Duran will spend one semester of next
junior year at Gallaudet University, a college for deaf students
in Washington, D.C. "I just want to go there and be with
deaf culture and my deaf friends," she says.
"I want to study ASL (American
Sign Language) application in children," she says. Fortunately,
Duran has first-hand experience in the field. In addition to
learning ASL herself, she was conversing with her younger (hearing)
brother in sign before he had even learned to talk.
With Duran in the lead, those hopes may speed Smith skiing to a great finish.
is published by the Smith College Office of College Relations
for alumnae, staff, students and friends.
Copyright © 2001, Smith College. Portions of this publication may be reproduced with the permission of the Office
of College Relations, Garrison Hall, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts 01063. Last update: 9/9/2001.
Made with Macintosh