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Bulldog News

Deaf graduating senior ready to put SC State degree to use with young children

Author: Sam Watson, Director of University Relations|Published: May 08, 2024|All News, Student News

Xenia Johnson
Xenia Johnson
ORANGEBURG, S.C. – Xenia Johnson is following in her grandmother’s footsteps. She wants future South Carolina State University students to follow in hers.

When she graduates on Friday with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development, Johnson will be SC State’s first deaf graduate, at least in recent memory.

She hopes others will follow her lead. She has already blazed a trail by serving as the first president of SC State’s American Sign Language (ASL) Club, which she established with Dr. Jacqueline Jones Brown, an assistant professor and clinical educator in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.

“I want other deaf students to apply to SCSU,” Johnson said. “I’m an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) advocate.

“I always had interpreters and a few note-takers in the past. I have an interpreter named Ms. Kendra Thompson since 2015,” she said. “I navigated at SCSU going to classes, homecomings, and other events. My professors were so patient working with me in their classrooms.”

A daughter of Cynthia J. Williams and Gerald Brown, Johnson has one brother on her mother’s side and six siblings on her father’s side. Although she is the sole deaf person on both sides, Johnson had a role model in her late maternal grandmother.

"I chose early childhood development because of my former teachers of Orangeburg County School District 5, and my grandma, Ellen Johnson, who was a paraprofessional for deaf children,” Johnson said. “I want to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps to become a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing.

“I have loved working with deaf children since I started to be a deaf mentor at Marshall Elementary in 2015,” she said.

Johnson enrolled at SC State in 2014 after graduating from Denmark Technical College. With the birth of her son, she took some time off and returned to SC State in 2021.

So, her bachelor’s degree has been 10 years in the making, but Johnson isn’t stopping there.

“I want to work at a local elementary school to be a teacher of the deaf and pursue a master’s degree in deaf education from the University of Arizona or Converse University,” she said.

Friday’s Spring Commencement will include an interpreter for the deaf and hard of hearing. Open to the public, the ceremony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Oliver C. Dawson Stadium. Johnson will be one of approximately 250 students receiving degrees.