Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

4-H clover Ramsey County 4-H volunteer Felicia Lee teaches youth about American Sign Language and deaf culture

Volunteer Felicia Lee teaches ASL at a Ramsey County 4-H event.

As a deaf person, Felicia Lee didn’t know what to expect when she first signed up to work with a hearing University of Minnesota Extension 4-H program in Ramsey County.

“My first time volunteering, I introduced myself to the young people in American Sign Language, or ASL,” Felicia recalls. “I was just using signs, and I could tell by their facial expressions that they were likely wondering why I never spoke. I realized, based on this interaction, that most of them had never met a deaf person before.”

But that realization didn’t stop Felicia from wanting to continue teaching youth about ASL and deaf culture– if anything, it inspired her even more.

“Giving youth the opportunity to interact with people that have disabilities, whether they are blind, have physical disabilities, or are deaf– like me– helps them realize that the world is large, and not everyone's the same,” Felicia says.

A memory from her experience that really stuck with her was when a young person made an effort to communicate directly with her instead of through the interpreter.

“Initially, the 4-H’ers didn't make eye contact with me. Instead of talking directly to me, they would talk to the interpreter,” Felicia says. “But one day, a young person approached me and said that they wanted to talk to me, using hand gestures and lip reading. I found it really touching.”

In addition to the positive impact Felicia’s teaching has had on Ramsey County 4-H youth, she also feels that it has benefited her.

“Through my volunteer experience, I had the opportunity to learn new skills like communicating effectively, guiding virtual meetings, sharing topics that I'm passionate about, challenging people's opinions and values, and stepping out of my comfort zone,” Felicia says. 

As a deaf person working with hearing youth, Felicia has faced many difficulties. But in the end, she feels it’s all worth it.

“The most impactful thing is that, through 4-H, young people have the opportunity to be exposed to deaf culture, deaf etiquette and most importantly, how to work with a deaf person,” Felicia says.

Felicia’s work has not only contributed to Ramsey County 4-H’s equity and inclusion efforts but also raised awareness for the deaf community and deaf culture, an important topic in helping youth become global citizens.

“Felicia embodies inclusion in all that she does. She uses her lived experiences as a deaf individual to teach others about ASL. Each opportunity she has in front of young people she uses as an opportunity to connect and give everyone a chance to shine. She is thoughtful in her leadership and welcoming in her presence,” says Jenny Cable, Extension educator in Ramsey County.

Learn more about becoming a 4-H volunteer.

Permission is granted to news media to republish our news articles with credit to University of Minnesota Extension. Images also may be republished; please check for specific photographer credits or limited use restrictions in the photo title.

Page survey

© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.