Grateful to be Essential within Our Deaf Community

Like Nunn Construction, Zoraida “Zee” Mares is grateful to be an essential employee during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mares provides Video Relay Services (VRS) to enable the Deaf throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to communicate and interprets pandemic updates for El Paso County Public Health. She’s also given generously of her time and skills to interpret for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children who’ve attended the Educating Children of Color’s Summit over the past eight years.

“I absolutely love it. To see the kids making eye contact with me and paying such close attention – I can literally see the lightbulbs turning on by the looks on their faces,” says Mares about interpreting at the Summit this year.

The Summit, held on the Colorado College campus, was attended by nearly 800 students and more than 600 educators and other professionals who work with youth within the community. There were 13 Deaf students at the event that included breakout sessions facilitated by both Deaf and Hearing presenters.

And Mares says she’s excited by the prospects of helping in every way she can to make sure a virtual 2021 Summit and Leadership Academy are successful next year. Because in-person events will be not be allowed on the CC campus for the foreseeable future, the ECOC organization is planning for virtual events.  

“I know we can make a virtual event work for everyone, and especially for Deaf students,” Mares says. And she’s confident because the students at the Colorado Springs School for the Deaf and Blind have laptops, “and they all know how to use Zoom – it’s how they’re doing some of their classes now.”

It’s Mare’s goal to have the Summit event and also the ECOC Leadership Academy to be even more well attended and inclusive of the Deaf community. The event is scheduled for Jan. 18, 2021 and the theme is Infinite Hope … Deliberate Effort.

“I think if we can start the planning now, we’ll have plenty of interpreters to meet the needs of students and presenters. I just know in my heart that it’s going to work out,” she says. “I also want all students to be able to maybe receive an educational gift, a laptop, or one of the scholarships offered at the Summit.” Nearly $200,000 in scholarships and educational gifts and 199 laptops have been given to students over the past 13 years.

Mares, whose Mother is Deaf and Father is Hard of Hearing, attended Pikes Peak Community College where she learned American Sign Language and developed her skills as an interpreter. She was born and raised in Colorado Springs and has a 7-year-old daughter who already knows ASL basics and communicates often with her Grandparents.

“Sometimes I wish she didn’t know ASL so well because she always gets what she wants from them,” Mares says with a smile.


Your donation to Educating Children of Color is doubled through August 1st in partnership with the Nunn Construction’s Gratitude Challenge Grant. Mention “Nunn Gratitude Challenge” when donating. Learn More about the grant and as Zee signs below, “Please Donate” to Educating Children of Color!

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