COUNCIL BLUFFS — When Katy Perry and “Good Morning America” announced the Roar with Katy Perry contest last month, high school students at the Iowa School for the Deaf jumped at the opportunity.
The contest offered the chance to win a live performance from Perry, but that wasn’t what motivated the students to participate.
Instead, it was a chance to show off their school — and how proud they are to be a part of it.
The contest required high school students to create a video interpretation of any portion of Perry’s song “Roar.”
For the Iowa students, that meant showing that, despite being deaf or hard of hearing, each of them has his or her own voice.
The video starts out with sophomore Stephanie Perez walking through the hallways of a seemingly mainstream school. She looks lonely and out of place as she passes people talking and laughing with their friends. The turning point comes when Stephanie notices a flier for the Iowa School for the Deaf.
Once at her new school, Stephanie is able to experience academic opportunities, direct communication from educators, a language-rich environment, athletic opportunities and social opportunities.
In short, she’s found a place where she belongs – where people are just like her and welcome her warmly into their circle of friends.
“She finally felt like she belonged but before that she had no friends. Then she developed a voice and felt like, ‘I can roar.’ That’s where we associate that title ‘Roar,’ ” said sophomore Jaymee Keen.
“That was the concept and the point we wanted to make – the transition of not having that and being bullied, and then being able to get involved socially and having the voice to roar. We wanted to show we have a voice.”
Senior D.J. Meyer agreed.
“She realized she could have success in life – she doesn’t have to just follow people like she did in her other school. Here, it gives her the oars so she can row her own path and have success in life.”
Jaymee said she had an awful experience in mainstream school, so she can very much relate to the video.
“I can remember that experience before I came to ISD,” she said. “The main focus was on the students working together and to show our support. We wanted to show we have a strong anti-bullying policy here and we follow that.”
In addition to showing that deaf students have their own voice, D.J. said the video was also a great way of spreading the word about the school.
“As you can see, we don’t have a lot of students here. Our numbers are small. A lot of people aren’t aware of ISD. My friend that was a student here didn’t know about ISD at first,” D.J. said.
“He didn’t have any exposure and didn’t know there was a whole deaf culture. He thought deaf students were just scattered along wherever they lived and that’s how it was. He felt like the only deaf person in the world.”
Even though students are already close because of the small enrollment, the video brought “a little bit more perspective of each other,” D.J. said.
“It reminded us why we don’t bully and why it’s not OK,” he said.
Perry didn’t choose ISD as one of five finalists, but students and teachers are still proud of the efforts and the video.
“I was really proud of our kids. You could tell they were excited to present their story to the world and that they’d put a lot of thought into it. If they were announced the winner, they would’ve been ready to take their place,” said Cynthia Angeroth, outreach coordinator at ISD.
“It really would’ve been unique for a school for the deaf to win a concert, and a lot of our students would’ve appreciated it.
“But for them to say (ISD) was finally a safe place where they could roar was wonderful. It’s a video to be proud of – it’s a neat story that they tell.”