FREDERICK, Md. (DC News Now) — The Maryland School for the Deaf, which has its main campus in Frederick, is the only one of its kind in the state of Maryland.
It provides those who are deaf and hard of hearing a place to learn in their own community. That includes Axel Vazquez Rodriguez, a fourth grader at the school who was born deaf.
“We found out when he was almost two years old, when he didn’t start speaking, and with all those delays on speech development, we started, then, making studies,” said Axel’s mom, Milagros Rodriguez.
His mom moved him from their home in Puerto Rico to Maryland so he could get a better learning opportunity at the Maryland School for the Deaf.
“We wanted to expose him to that community, like, to that identity of him,” said Rodriguez, referring to the part of her son that included his deafness.
According to the Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, there are more than 1.2 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Marylanders.
In the last few years, the school has received national attention, including for its high school football team’s appearance in a Netflix documentary called “Audible,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.
“If I was going to a hearing school, I wouldn’t know what they were talking about. Here, everyone’s signing so I know what they’re saying,” said Axel.
Jennifer Yost Ortiz, interim chief educational programs officer at MSD, said the school not only offers support for students but also parents in need of job opportunities.
“Our deaf ecosystem is very strong. It’s amazing. It’s huge here in the area. We are near several places; for example, Gallaudet University is an hour away, the National Association for the Deaf is 45 minutes away and we’ve got a great partnership with the governor, the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Annapolis,” said Yost Ortiz.
There are about 450 students who attend the school’s two campuses. The main one in Frederick serves students from birth to the age of 21. The other campus is in Columbia, Md.