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Monday, April 15, 2024

17-year-old girl born by deaf parents beats 8000 contestants to win scholarship, bags $25000 award

A 17-year-old girl named Isabella Mashanksi who was born to deaf parents has gotten a chance to prove herself as she beats 8000 contestants around the world to win a scholarship worth 25000 dollars to the university.

Isabella is a senior at East Brunswick High School and a CODA (child of deaf adults) who received a 25,000 dollars worth of Live Mas college scholarship from the Taco Bell Foundation for a movie she made about her experience.

“My parents have both been deaf for almost their entire lives. “My dad, Tony, lost his hearing when he was two years old because he got a fever. And my mother, Maritza, was born deaf because we think her mother had German measles while she was pregnant with her,” she said.

She mentioned that her parents met through mutual friends in the New York deaf network, which Bella describes as “like a big family.” They married and gave birth to her and her brother who both can hear normally.

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“Growing up was really different for me. You can hear, but you are in the deaf community. It’s like having two different identities. My first language was American Sign Language, and speaking came later,” she said

“I was actually a delayed speaker as a child and had to have speech therapy up until 9th grade,” she added. She stated that she had to mature earlier than her age to assist her parent.

“Doctor’s appointments, things like that, I had to translate for them at a very young age. When I was in the hospital once I had to sign all these medical forms that a parent would usually sign because there was no interpreter there for my mom,” Bella said.


Isabella said her younger brother depended on her for a lot of things adding that she faced the challenge of friends and strangers asking unintentionally hurtful questions. She said it was particularly difficult to watch her parents struggle to find work.

She stated that she has always loved movies and film-making in her free time, she produces and edits her films with her friends. Isabella said her dream is to one day write and produce movies and TV shows that feature actors who are deaf or blind.

“I want to see more movies with deaf people, or just see someone who has a disability be a lead role in a film. There are people like Nyle who was on Dancing With the Stars. (Nyle DiMarco, the first deaf winner of America’s Next Top Model.) He is amazing and people don’t realize how much of a role model he is for deaf people,” she said.

Isabella said she was walking into the Rt. 18 Taco Bell one day when she first noticed an ad for their Live Mas college scholarship. “I figured I was a long shot, but why not just apply?” she said.

They offered $5,000 and $10,000 scholarships, but I figured whatever, let me dream big and go for the $25,000 scholarship. My grades weren’t too good in my freshman and sophomore years, so I focused on my film-making in my application,” Isabella added.

She was chosen out of more than 8,000 students who applied and of the 300 winners, she was one of only 16 who received the $25,000 award. Isabella said she will use the scholarship to study film arts at Studio School Los Angeles.

Isabella who recently started DHB, Deaf Hearing and Blind acting studio, said she hopes to continue her film-making dreams in Los Angeles.

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