Author Archives: tayc28

About tayc28

I am a graduate student currently in the OMALS program at Virginia Tech

Warm Bodies and Warm Hearts

Taylor Caskey

As the holiday season nears, the New River Valley area is often met with a cold front. With temperatures dropping below freezing, the homeless community in the area struggle to find warmth. This is why many local churches band together to provide these individuals with the support they need.

            For their tenth season in a row, To Our House allows multiple churches to team up to house several homeless people for a few chilly weeks. Don Waite, a board member for the To Our House foundation says that the number of homeless people that walk through their door continues to grow.

            “This season started off with eight people the first night, by Monday we had twelve and by Wednesday we were maxed out. And I can imagine with the coming weather and looking at the long range forecast for this winter, we’re probably going to be maxed out for most of the season.”

            The church provides up to fifteen homeless men and women with shelter, food, toiletries, and even haircuts and hepatitis shotsto help them maximize their holiday season. The homeless people are also offered help with finding jobs after they leave the shelter.

            “We’ve developed some pretty strong relationships with some of the people. During the season we provide job placement if they’re interested, if they need social security or food stamps; we provide those kinds of things. We help getting them to the right authorities and getting paperwork filled out. We also provide help in getting them housing if that’s what they want. We do everything we can to get them off the streets if that’s what they choose,” explains Waite.

            The shelter starts in early November and ends in early February. To Our House aims to keep the people off of the streets until the weather heats up. Waite says that in this time, he finds the value in each person and that because he has the opportunity to help; he is the lucky one.

            “We get to realize how much of a difference we’ve made over ten years. We’ve sheltered 337 guests in the first nine years. We’ve brought together over 50 faith communities, engaged around 1,000 volunteers. Provided 51,000 service hours, 32,000 meals, and 137 of our guests have found permanent housing out of the 377. 98 have found employment. It’s an impressive resume for us that shows we really do make a difference for them.”

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Posted by on November 14, 2019 in News, No category


A Step in the Right Direction

By Taylor Caskey


While Virginia Tech prides itself on being an inclusive environment for many; certain students struggle in the minority. Although there are many programs to allow deaf students to find success in college, often times, many students who are hard of hearing lack certain privileges that some students take for granted. Many professors are not equipped with the proper skills to communicate effectively with these students. This is why the Language and Culture Institute decided to make a change.

            Starting this year, the Language and Culture Institute at Virginia Tech is providing sign language training to faculty and staff. This is part of the effort to create a more inclusive environment at the school. Pamela Smart-Smith who runs the program believes that this will be part of a much greater effort to help bridge the gap between students with disabilities and those without.

            “In the end, having more people have an understanding of ASL can only benefit those that use ASL every day to communicate as well as those that have developed a new way of speaking to others. Languages have the ability to bring the world closer together and really in the end that is where the true benefit lies,” said Smart-Smith.

Before this program, Virginia Tech offered interpreters, note-takers, and C-Print Captioning for these students. C-print captioning; an application that allows for certain classes to be close-captioned for students to read is mainly for students who do not prefer to use sign language with their instructors.

            The program is beginning at a perfect time as the number of deaf students in colleges is only increasing. Sign language has also become the third largest language other than Spanish in French among college students in the United States according to

            There are more than 20,000 deaf or hard-of-hearing students that enroll in college every year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. While the number of deaf students at Virginia Tech is unknown, the number seems to only be increasing as the school brings in new classes each year. Smart-Smith points out how the differences are not severe, but can create a disconnect between students.

            “I think the biggest challenge faced by deaf students is simply that they are often seen through deficit eyes from those outside the deaf community.  ASL is a beautiful language filled with nuances of expression and as such should not  be viewed as less. Angela DeVore, the ASL instructor, helps accomplish this by not only teaching the language, but by providing students a chance to communicate with guest speakers from the deaf community,” she explained.  

            Weekly meeting are held at the Language and Culture Institute to aid staff members in creating a more all-encompassing environment at Virginia Tech.

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Posted by on October 16, 2019 in Arts & Culture, No category