Local man overcomes disability, graduates with master's degree

Becomes first college graduate in his family
Posted at 1:05 PM, Jun 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-22 20:50:09-04

As roughly 2,500 graduates of CSU Bakersfield crossed the stage this month, one of them was doing something particularly special as he accepted his diploma.

Justin Patt became the first college graduate in his family while being the only member of his family who happens to be deaf.

“I learned sign language at about one or two years old,” said Patt, who graduated from CSUB with a master’s degree in business administration.

According to Patt, only one other deaf student has graduated from CSUB with a master's degree.

Patt’s parents discovered that he was deaf when he was 13 months old. It’s been a battle for him since.

“Access to interpreting services and jobs, communication with people has been tough. Lucky for me, I learned how to lip-read and I know how to speak fairly well."

In addition to dealing with the natural roadblocks that come with a lack of hearing, Patt had to get past some prejudice.

"Some of the problems include oppression...I'm not capable of doing what normal people can do and I've spent my whole life trying to prove to people that they're wrong by working harder with everything that I do," Patt said.

Patt was joined in his interview by Mary Norton, a sign language interpreter at CSUB, and Janice Clawson, the director of services for students with disabilities at the school. He credited them both for helping him through school.

"I think that anyone can look at [Justin] and say 'I can do this'," Clawson said.

Patt leaves CSUB with a master's degree and with something to prove, but right now he's just happy to be done with school.

"The first word that comes to my mind is relief," he said.

Patt says he has a few ideas for what he’ll do now, including a business that involves selling honey. 

He also has something he wanted to get out to anyone who may be facing struggles like he did.

"This message is to all of you people who may have a disability or a learning doesn't matter. I just want to let you know that you can do anything. Anything is possible. The resources are out there for us, for all of us to use, so I encourage you to pursue your dreams and your goals. Keep going forward. If life gives you problems, don't worry about it. Any problem can be solved."