CSD of South Dakota: Making an Impact


CSD of South Dakota – Making an Impact

CSD of South Dakota’s staff has been working diligently for the past 45 years to provide access and resources for the deaf and hard of hearing community in South Dakota.

By providing technology, interpreters, mentorship, language access, and so much more, this dedicated group has made a tremendous impact on the groups and individuals they’ve worked with.

Community members who received services from CSD of South Dakota have gone on to pursue many different paths in life ranging from being a successful student, becoming a nationally recognized lawyer, developing skills as a community advocate – and more. One thing they all have in common is their involvement with CSD of South Dakota. Keep reading for more first-person accounts of how CSD of South Dakota has impacted individuals and families.

With Access Comes Success

Through CSD of South Dakota’s advocacy Mara Land was provided an in-classroom interpreter. Her mother explains the results below.

“Our hard-working, beautiful, awesome daughter, Mara, won a stack of academic awards including President’s Education Award, Academic Letter and top ACT scorer of the senior class (to name a few).  Academic honors weren’t really a thing of the past, despite having worked very hard.  Just ask Mara about listening fatigue. 
The reason for the recent success has to do with having access to an ASL interpreter in the classroom.  
Many of you may not know that Mara has spent hundreds of hours outside of the school day learning ASL, received private tutoring from a deaf math teacher, and has traveled thousands of miles to learn ASL and to be around other deaf teens.  All of this to have language and communication freedom. ASL learning and travel were not provided by the school or school funds. All of the language development and exposure has helped her to fully benefit academically at school.  
Mara is living proof that hard work alone is not a guarantee of academic success and achieving potential; rather,  a person needs the right access, tools and skills with the elbow grease. (Think: Amy Rowley’s battle).   
A special thank you to those who have encouraged and spent countless hours with Mara Land.  And a very special thank you to all the interpreters who tirelessly work to make sense of high school classrooms!  Also a special thanks to Mara’s two special friends, Katy Liester and Sarah Van Liere, who encourage each other to do the best, work hard. 
Great job, Mara!  You just improved the school’s academic profile and have proven the ROI of having an interpreter.  And, like professor Amy Rowley, you are an amazing overcomer and will continue to do great stuff.”

The Value of a Mentor

MaKenzie Ovenstone, a former recipient of CSD of South Dakota’s services, is now a communication specialist with the organization. She’s been mentoring Isaiah and his family for a little over a month, and the impact has been tremendous. Check out the letter Isaiah’s mother sentt to MaKenzie about her work.


The very first day you came to our house and started signing with Isaiah, he looked at me, his eyes filled with excitement. He could hardly contain himself- running around, giggling, jumping off the walls. Filled with so much wonder and curiosity, all the while his eyes fixed on you.

At the end of our first class, as I was closing the door behind you, I felt a tug on my shirt. I looked down to see my son’s eyes begin to well up with tears, his body suddenly still. He looks at me, tears slowly moving along his cheeks. A shaky, thankful voice said “Mom, I’m not so different anymore.” My heart melted as we stood there hugging, watching through the front door window as you got into your car and drove away.

You have transformed our lives, brought so much hope and wonder into our son’s world, and offer great encouragement to us as a family as we learn together. We see so much difference in how Isaiah views the world, he is signing more and more, now curious about the things around him. “What’s the sign for…“ is his favorite question, one that I don’t have the answers to and often find myself searching YouTube for immediate answers to encourage our vocabulary.

On Fridays, when we go to speech therapy, he is often teaching his SLP the signs we practice at home, and our amazing SLP is excited to learn as Isaiah’s knowledge of signing increases. His SLP now comes prepared with questions about our ASL sessions, encouraging Isaiah’s vocabulary while incorporating sign. Isaiah’s speech and signing continue to improve.

At nights Isaiah begs me to try to sign his Paw Patrol book you recently read to him. He often asks me if I remember the correct signs. He is quick to point out you are much better at reading and signing than I am and reminds me I need to learn more. 🥰

Your presence during mentoring sessions continues to increase our wonder and amazement for Deaf culture and language.

We cannot thank you enough for your time and dedication while teaching our family. We are strongly encouraged by you and the knowledge you bring, as well as the CSD program that offers this excellent opportunity of in-home mentoring sessions.

Thank you for your continued time and dedication, we truly appreciate everything you do and look forward to seeing you next week! 🙂 🙌❤️🙌

-The Pucketts

Representation Matters

Meet Zach.

Zach works with CSD and South Dakota School for the Deaf for advocacy and support and has become a great addition to any group activity hosted by CSD of South Dakota. Over the past three years, Zach’s confidence has grown so much as a result of seeing, and interacting with deaf role models. He’s comfortable engaging with his peers and teachers – and he’s even excelling at one of his passions – drama!

Zach decided to become involved with the drama group at his school, and two years ago, he won a Superior Performer medal at the State Drama competition in Aberdeen. This is the highest individual award actors can earn at the competition. As a senior in high school continuing to be involved in drama and band, Zach is now a confident and outgoing student looking forward to taking the next steps in life.

The Impact of Advocacy

The majority of deaf children are born to hearing parents, who may not have experience advocating for a deaf or hard of hearing student. CSD of South Dakota has this experience and can support you in your advocacy efforts. Read a note from one parent who’s benefited from this particular service below.

A year ago, my son was in 6th grade with a 3rd-grade reading level (sadly I didn’t know it was that bad). I had met another parent many years ago who was signing with her daughter and thought nope, my son has implants he can hear everything (how misguided I was). Through her, we met Tanya, who is now family! Tanya is an interpreter (for another student at school) and has shown us a whole new world! Without her, none of this would be possible.”  

She introduced us to Mark from CSD. He has shown me how to advocate for my son and helped me understand all of Trey’s needs! He has been my backbone on fighting a school district that was so lost and believed that since Trey was deaf, he was delayed and would never succeed. 

We started taking ASL classes that Tanya taught and I saw a new Trey; he was no longer struggling, no longer so exhausted at 5 o clock, he had energy and there was no longer hearing from him, “What did you say?”  or “huh?”  Mark then put me in contact with Teresa at Parent Connections, and she was amazing at knowing the direction we needed to go! She got us in contact with Paula who knows the ins and outs of what a school needs to provide.

It was HELL fighting for my son. So many meetings, so many times we were told no for simple requests like an ASL interpreter. I don’t know how many times I would call Tanya and cry. She helped me on a personal level stay calm and collected almost like a guardian angel! We are so fortunate that everyone that has advocated for Trey has become the family that we needed!

We finally got the pieces put together and I’m proud to say that every tear shed, every sleepless night, every battle we went through fighting for Trey’s rights is starting to pay off! His grades are coming up and the teachers are seeing a bright intelligent kid! He now has access to what is being said and is soaring!

Instead of being told he can’t it is now HE CAN! He will succeed! He will go to college and he will never be told he can’t! It has been a hard battle, but with help from some amazing advocates, we have been able to change Trey’s future for the better! 

Get Involved and Make an Impact

While the stories listed above are just a few examples of the impact CSD of South Dakota has, there is always an opportunity to do more. With your support on #GivingTuesday we can do just that. Make a donation today and make an impact.

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