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'CODA' Oscar wins provide inspiration, representation for deaf students and families in North Texas

The Mesquite Regional Day School Program for the Deaf teaches nearly 400 students in the area from birth to adults

MESQUITE, Texas — Like anyone at North Mesquite High School, the students at the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf sat through morning announcements Monday, but the big news to students in the program wasn’t the soccer or debate teams’ performances.

It was what happened Sunday night.

"CODA", which stands for Child of Deaf Adults, won the Academy Award for Best Picture along with Best Adapted Screenplay, and its deaf star, Troy Kotsar, won Best Supporting Actor. 

“CODA is the talk of the town really,” Regional Day School’s director Jeri Golden said. “When it came out, everyone was texting me, ‘Have you seen this movie, have you seen this movie?’.”

The Regional Day School Program includes nearly 400 students from birth to adults, more than 180 attend three Mesquite ISD schools, with the others studying at their home school. It also serves 10 other districts in the area: Crandall, Forney, Garland, Kaufman, Red Oak, Rockwall, Royse City, Sunnyvale, Terrell and Wills Point. 

“Actually winning an Oscar was just mouth-dropping to our kids,” said Golden.

RELATED: 'CODA' wins best picture Oscar, marking a streaming first

Maire Gonzales is a senior at North Mesquite and is deaf. 

“Oh my gosh, I love CODA. It’s an incredible movie,” she said. “I was shocked. It was just the tops.” 

Gonzalez hopes the movie helps hearing people learn more about the experiences of deaf culture.

“They see CODA, and they see what’s happening. You see at the end people are clapping and the deaf people can’t hear, so that is our experience, so that really touched me,” Gonzalez said. “They need more exposure. The deaf community is small. We need more access all over.”

Mesquite has deaf cheerleaders and its own deaf robotics team, which competed in a statewide tournament over the weekend. 

Gonzalez is headed to Tyler Junior College next year, where she’ll study childhood education, motivated by deaf teachers she calls role models. 

“There’s a shared experience,” she said. “They’re deaf. I’m deaf, so we have a relationship there.”

Some school districts provide students with interpreters, but Mesquite and its deaf students say the program for the deaf allows for more socializing and working with teachers and students who relate to them.

“The deaf community has come a long way,” Golden said. “I think people are understanding deaf culture more. That’s what’s needed.”

For students, teachers and the community, the film’s success shows deaf people can accomplish anything.

“I think the divide is they can’t, they can’t, they can’t when in all actuality they can,” Golden said. “We just have to provide their mode of communication.”

“There’s no limits, no limitations to what we can do,” Gonzalez said.

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