EDINBURG – As a child Brittney Hernandez needed to adapt to her surroundings which included being raised by deaf parents and living in a deaf community.

It was difficult. Not only did she have to learn sign language but English to communicate in her every day life as well as Spanish to communicate with her grandmother who helped raise her.

“I've always been fascinated by the language,” Hernandez said. “I believe I was gifted to have deaf parents to be able to learn the language.”

Hernandez said most people do not experience sign language and deaf culture. She grew up in a deaf community where interpreters, deaf people, children of deaf people (also known as child of a deaf adult) and siblings of deaf people all interact with one another.

Interactions include hanging out, going to events together and try and make sure no one feels left out.

“Deaf people are usually excluded from the hearing world,” Hernandez said. “We come together every few weeks, when we can.”

Hernandez has also become the first student from Edinburg CISD to receive an associates degree in American Sign Language.

Receiving the degree was a process in itself because Hernandez was the only high school student earning the degree among several adults.

“I kind of wanted to give up but I knew if I persevered I would be okay,” the Edinburg High School graduate said.

After a string of A's in her first two classes Hernandez found herself becoming a better student of American Sign Language. But then came a new professor who demanded Hernandez to sign at a higher level. She received her first B and a fire inside Hernandez sparked knowing she had to do better.

Hernandez's sign language became more formal to where even her parents noticed. They were proud of their daughter because she was learning American Sign Language at a higher level and they also noticed her becoming more aware of heritage and community.

After high school graduation Hernandez plans to attend a university and get a degree in business, where her 10-year goal is to become an entrepreneur to help all disabled people not just the deaf.

Currently she is learning to help consumers have a better experience at Pizza Hut. From time-to-time there will be a table of deaf customers and Hernandez will take the table.

Most of the time customers are surprised to see her use sign language but it makes Hernandez grow more out of her shell.

“Most of the time I would just use sign language with my family and their friends,” she said. “I was used to their hands, I was used for them to go slow and make it easier for me so my classes have made me focus more on different signs.”

Hernandez is grateful for the opportunity to communicate with others using American Sign Language. Her education has made her more knowledgeable sure, but it was her life experiences that have made her the person she is today.

“It makes me happy to know I can help others,” she said. “This opportunity the school has given to me I am very appreciative.”