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Dean's Award 2024 – Through thick and thin, Deaf Studies graduate Taylor Longmire is dedicated to her cause

Taylor Longmire, Deaf Studies major, is the Dean's Award winner for the College of Education. (Sacramento State Student Affairs/Hazart Sanker)

For Taylor Longmire, the path to a degree has not been straight and narrow. As the saying goes, however, the journey is often just as important as the destination.

At 17, Longmire left Sacramento and headed across country to Mount Holyoke College, a private liberal arts women’s college in Massachusetts, to study Africana history and psychology. Just two years later, she returned home and started over.

“Being a 17-year-old, I thought that it was a great opportunity, which in many ways it was,” said Longmire, who is originally from the Bay Area. “It was an amazing school. Financially, it just was not really working out for my family, and I missed my family so much.”

Her winding journey reaches a significant milestone during Sacramento State’s 2024 Commencement, May 17-19, when Longmire graduates cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Deaf Studies. She is this year’s Dean’s Award recipient for the College of Education. Deans’ Awards are given at Commencement to the top graduating student from each of Sac State’s seven academic colleges.

Longmire discovered the true passion that would lead her to Sac State when she returned to Sacramento and enrolled at American River College. Though she had taken four years of Spanish in high school, to fulfill her college language requirement she challenged herself by enrolling in American Sign Language.

“The first day I was in the class, I walked out, and I sat down on a bench and wrote in my little notepad,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’ And it was from then on, I fell so in love with the language.”

Aspiring to work as an interpreter, Longmire transferred to Sac State because of its “amazing Deaf Studies program,” but would soon face a major loss when her father succumbed pancreatic cancer.

“The culture of supporting one another and being able to build off each other's knowledge just really sparked a lot of compassion and support.” -- Taylor Longmire

For many, the tragedy would have sidelined educational goals. For Longmire, who was raised on and stays motivated by affirmations from historically significant people, a favorite quote from Denzel Washington helped her persevere.

“(Denzel’s) whole point was that you're going to fall, but try to fall forward, don't fall back,” she said. “That is really a representation of what I had to do with losing my father.”

Inspiration also came from life-changing advice Longmire’s father gave her during his final months.

“He was always just telling us that we need to keep living, that there isn't really another option, and that for him, his life's going to end and ours is going to continue,” Longmire said. “It was so incredible, watching how he handled the situation.”

Despite having to help support her family financially following her father’s passing and other family changes, Longmire took the situation in stride.

“I was always serious about obtaining my degree, but losing him was like a wake-up call that you can't go back to bed from,” she said. “It made me work harder. It made me take every day that I've lived since and not take it for granted.”

As someone for whom a high standard of academic excellence has always been expected, Longmire said she never received much acknowledgement for her accomplishments. Receiving a Dean’s Award is not only an honor she’s very proud of, it also is a reflection of the impact she had on the Deaf Studies program at Sac State.

“I was crying, sobbing because it felt so good to finally figure out what you want to do and then not only do it but get acknowledged and praised for it,” she said.

She’s grateful for the community and support provided by the Deaf Studies department.

“The culture of supporting one another and being able to build off each other's knowledge just really sparked a lot of compassion and support,” she said.

Deidre Sessoms, interim dean of the College of Education, said Longmire receiving the Dean’s Award reflects her dedication to the Deaf community.

“Taylor’s academic excellence is matched only by her contributions to the Deaf Studies program,” Sessoms said. “Not only is she committed to serving her community, she aims to address critical gaps in diversity among interpreters, bringing her unique perspective as a Black interpreter, a severely underrepresented demographic, to the field. We are confident in Taylor’s potential to make significant impacts on the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.”

Longmire has also served as a peer tutor in the Deaf Studies department, a leadership counselor in Princeton University’s At The Well Conferences, Inc., and a volunteer with NorCal Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Journey for Change-South Africa.

In the fall, she will return to American River College to begin the interpreting preparation program. Her goals are to become a nationally certified interpreter and earn a master’s degree from Gallaudet University, the world leader in Deaf education.

“As a hearing person, I know that I have a lot of privilege and the Deaf community has welcomed me in and given me an opportunity to make a living,” she said.

“I want them to know I’m not here for the check. I’m here for the Deaf community. That's what I've decided to do with my life. And they'll never have to worry about me straying from that path.”

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About Daniel Wilson

Daniel Wilson joined the Sac State communications team in 2022 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at the Sacramento Bee as an audience engagement producer and reporter. He graduated from Sac State with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 2018. He plays video games, watches pro wrestling, and loves spending time with his wife and cat.

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