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Norma Moran
Norma Morán with some of her students in Kenya.

While attending RIT, Norma Morán ’00 (professional and technical communications) was a campus leader and excellent student who was planning a career in her field of study. Then one night she saw a poster that would change the direction of her career and ultimately enrich her life beyond her dreams.

“I saw a Peace Corps poster with its famous question, ‘How far are you willing to go to make a difference?’ and was inspired by another line at the bottom, ‘The toughest job you’ll ever love,’ ” Morán says. “I decided right there that this was my chance to contribute a bit to the world’s well-being.”

Morán sent in the application and was selected to serve as a deaf-education volunteer in Kenya. She spent three years working mainly with deaf children and adults, providing needed education — and more important, hope — to an often-overlooked minority in African society.

Morán’s story actually began years before. Born deaf to a young family in El Salvador, Norma was not diagnosed properly until age 2. Simultaneously, civil war broke out in the country in 1979. Morán’s mother made her way with her daughter to the U.S.

“Leaving El Salvador as a refugee during a war instilled in me a great degree of empathy for people in areas of the world that do not have any chance at the American dream,” Morán says. “I saw the Peace Corps as a chance to do something to alleviate some of the suffering I was fortunate to escape in my own life.”

After migrating through Guatemala and Mexico — much of the time on foot — the Moráns arrived in Reno, Nev. She was mainstreamed in public schools and learned American Sign Language, but always felt somewhat isolated from her classmates and community. RIT’s focus on deaf education and diversity were among the reasons she decided to move 3,000 miles to attend college.

“At RIT/NTID, I blossomed into a young deaf Hispanic leader through working with diverse groups of students in the microsomal community of the deaf,” Morán says. “I really came out of my shell and realized that I had the ability to make a difference.”

Morán continued her role as a leader and difference-maker in Kenya. She learned the national language of Kiswahili as well as Kenyan Sign Language and taught a number of subjects and AIDS awareness classes.

“I learned so much from everyone I met in Kenya, teaching, sharing, learning, laughing, helping and being inspired. I thought I would be giving to the people I met; instead I got much more in return than I ever could have expected.”

Morán returned to the U.S. in 2003 and enrolled in graduate studies at American University in Washington, D.C. Currently a financial analyst at the National Institutes of Health, Morán hopes to continue her work in deaf education and training on an international level following completion of her master’s degree.

“Thanks to RIT and Kenya, I continue to evolve from where I was in El Salvador,” Morán adds. “Marcel Prousts’s quote, ‘The real voyage of discovering does not consist in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes,’ is completely true!”