Personalized sashes for international graduates sets a new trend

World Deaf Leadership (WDL) graduates Krishneer Sen, from Fiji, and Ana Arce, from the Philippines, display special embroidered sashes bearing the flag of their country and the logo for the Nippon Foundation of Tokyo, Japan, which funds the endowed scholarship for promising Gallaudet students with financial need from developing nations. The sashes, designed by Pam Strange, a retired missionary and American Sign Language interpreter from Oklahoma, are a lifetime keepsake that goes to WDL scholarship graduates to wear over their graduation robe. Strange became close friends with a current WDL scholar, Dana Diarra, after meeting him at a deaf school in Mali in 2005 while she was doing outreach work for her church. The two stayed in touch over the years, and when Diarra reached college age, Strange encouraged him to enroll at Gallaudet.  The American Embassy in Mali became involved in helping Diarra find resources for a Gallaudet education, and as fate would have it, put him in contact with a former Gallaudet employee working for the embassy, Dr. Kathleen Peoples, who helped him identify scholarship opportunities at the University. He applied for the WDL scholarship and was accepted. He graduates next year. When Diarra arrived at Gallaudet, Strange was so thrilled she drove to Gallaudet from Oklahoma in just two days to welcome and congratulate him. Since then, Strange and her husband have become Diarra's second family, and he spends long breaks from school at their home. Mrs. Strange now sells clothing and fashions monograms. She began making monogramed sashes in 2013 for the WDL scholars who were graduating-Namiraa Baljinnyam (Mongolia) and Vee Yee Chong (Malaysia). The idea for the personalized sashes began the year before when Liping Wu (China), a graduate of Gallaudet's English Language Institute, a program that provides a multicultural environment for students to achieve academic, professional, and personal language goals, designed monogrammed sashes for two Gallaudet graduates from Colombia, Danilo Torres and Maria Perdomo. They were such a big hit that the WDL program decided to adopt them for its graduates. Wu designed the sashes for graduating WDL scholars Jiayi Zhou (China) and Jacob Ireri (Kenya) in 2012, and Mrs. Strange made them the following two years. Hence, a tradition has been born and is expanding to include special monogramed sashes for Gallaudet graduates in two of Gallaudet's Diversity and Equity for Students programs-Keeping the Promise, which empowers multicultural students of all backgrounds and abilities to achieve success, and the Lavender graduation, a special, smaller ceremony held in addition to Commencement for LGBT students of all races and ethnicities to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University.

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