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Local Girl Scout earns national award for deaf awareness efforts
Girl Scout award
Turlock High senior Nina Hoobyar proudly dons her Girl Scout vest while holding up her ASL club sign. Her on-campus and community efforts to spread ASL and deaf awareness have earned Hoobyar the prestigious Girl Scouts Gold Award (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

Turlock High senior Nina Hoobyar has been a member of Girl Scout Troop 399 since kindergarten. After her nearly 12 years of involvement and her recent efforts to spread awareness of the deaf community and American Sign Language, she has been awarded the prestigious Gold Award, which is the Girls Scouts’ equivalent of Eagle Scout honors.

“I was so excited when I found out,” Hoobyar said. “This is the absolute highest honor you can get as a Girl Scout and to learn that I finally reached the requirements and I was awarded it, it was an amazing feeling.”

To be eligible for the Gold Award, a scout must be in high school, serve at least 80 hours of community service hours throughout their high school years focused on solving a problem in the community, and the scout’s efforts must remain sustainable past graduation. According to Hoobyar, receiving the award is something very special to her as only about five percent of Girl Scouts nationwide ever earn it. Additionally, she is the first and only scout from Turlock to receive the award in the group’s decades-long history.

“Many girls leave the Girl Scouts once they hit high school, and I think that time is a large factor,” she said. “A lot of girls become really busy, and I have as well. When time is cut, priorities are made. Because their time was restricted, they had to choose.”

Hoobyar is no different, as the THS senior’s daily schedule is jam packed with extracurricular activities, such as being a member of the Bulldog tennis team, serving as secretary for the school’s NAMI mental health club and being a member of the school’s OMG (Oh Mighty God) Catholic club.

Despite the limited time, Hoobyar remained determined to make a change in her community and earn the Gold Award, leading her to start the American Sign Language club at THS during her freshman year. The club is advised by special education teacher Blake Amador. Hoobyar explained that she achieved the majority of her Gold Award hours by hosting club meetings and taking an ASL college-level course at Modesto Junior College. Between the two activities, she and her classmates were able to speak about the number of myths surrounding the deaf community in hopes of erasing stigmas and barriers that they may face on a daily basis.

“As time went on, I realized that so many people, especially at my school, think that deaf people need a cure or need something to be fixed. I want people to see these people as just another person and be treated as any one of us, who are able to hear,” she said.

While Hoobyar’s passion has skyrocketed throughout her high school years, it was actually during her time in middle school that her interest was really sparked.

“In eighth grade, I took an ASL class for the first time, and that’s when I really fell in love with the language,” she said. “One thing that people always ask is if I’m related to someone who is deaf, and the answer is no. I just think that you don’t have to have a direct relationship to make change and create a more just society.”

Throughout the four years of the ASL club’s existence, membership has grown to over 30 students. The increased interest from community members and her continuous outreach efforts have led her to start considering a higher education focused on similar efforts, including majoring in communicative disorders, ASL and deaf studies in college.

As for the remainder of her senior year, Hoobyar has already coordinated with her classmates that her ASL club will continue after her expected graduation next summer in order to truly fulfill the Gold Award requirement. The club has also ramped up efforts to spread awareness on the deaf community and ASL this year through a number of new initiatives, such as hanging up club posters around the THS campus and selling club t-shirts. Being able to sport and sell club shirts was the result of one of her community outreach initiatives, as the club received a generous donation from the Turlock Sunrise Rotary after she gave presentations on ASL to the organization.

Additionally, Hoobyar intends to translate the National Anthem in ASL before one of the biggest sports nights in Turlock this year gets set to kick off, Harvest Bowl 19 on Friday. She hopes to become the first person to ever sign the National Anthem in ASL at Joe Debely Stadium.

“I think signing the National Anthem at Harvest Bowl will really help spread awareness that this is happening. It’s not a common occurrence to have something like that at most public events,” Hoobyar said. “I’ve been wanting to do that for a while now, and now that it’s my senior year, I need to do everything that I’ve wanted to do. If everything goes well, hopefully I can do it at the other football games, the baseball games, and whichever other games.”

The ASL club will also continue to advocate for an official ASL course. A course was originally supposed to launch this school year, but a misunderstanding regarding teaching qualifications has delayed the start of the course. The club also plans on holding more events at Turlock High and throughout the community for the school years to come.

Those interested in the awareness efforts done by Hoobyar and the ASL club, can follow them on Instagram at @_turlockhighasl.