Paul Jones has never let being deaf get in the way of his goals. We recently caught up with the 2019 Saint Leo University criminal justice degree alumnus to find out about his life, experience as a Saint Leo student and what he hopes to achieve in his career.

Q: How old are you?

A: 54

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: West Hartford, Conn.

Q: Where do you currently reside?

A: Port Richey, Fla.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: Both of my parents were deaf. My former wife was also deaf. We have two children, Dexter who is 33 and Darlene who is 32. Both are deaf. We also have grandchildren. Emma, who is 10, has normal hearing. Lily, who is eight, is deaf.

Q: Where did you go to high school:

A: I attended the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford. This was the first deaf school in America (founded in 1817).

Q: Where did you previously attend college?

A: I attended Pasco-Hernando State College for my associate degree.

Q: How did you find out about Saint Leo University?

A: There was a recruiter for Saint Leo at PHSC. I learned about how good of a school it was and their criminal justice degree programs. So, I enrolled and started in 2016.

Q: Why did you choose the criminal justice degree program?

A: I know that deaf individuals have always had problems communicating with police officers. So, I decided to major in criminal justice so I could eventually educate the police about deaf culture.

Q: Did you have any favorite classes at Saint Leo?

A: Yes. I really enjoyed a psychology class where we studied different types of people – children, teens, adults, etc. – and how criminal minds fit into these groups. But I'd say I enjoyed all of my classes.

Q: What was your overall experience like as a Saint Leo student?

A: I had a great experience as a student for several years. The staff and students were so helpful and friendly.

Q: How did Saint Leo University ensure you received an accessible education?

A: They had an interpreter for my classes and made sure I fit in with the other students. I also met a few students who knew American Sign Language (ASL).

Q: What advice would you give to college students with disabilities?

A: I would advise all students with disabilities to not give up and pursue their goals until the day they get their degree. No one can stop them.

Q: What kind of work have you done in your career?

A: I used to work for Disney at Animal Kingdom where I maintained some of the facilities. I was also a caregiver to my mom for eight years. I'm currently working with Nancy Cheek from Saint Leo's Career Services Office to help in my career search.

Q: What are your career goals?

A: In general, there are lots of communication issues between law enforcement and people with all types of disabilities. I'd like to teach sign language to law enforcement officers. I would potentially like to start my own business. I'd love to be able to work with local or state police or even the Department of Homeland Security. Overall, I want to help improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Q: What kind of volunteer work have you done?

A: I am a mentor at my church, Eagle's Landing Church in New Port Richey. I help individuals who have lost loved ones. I also speak to different deaf groups at coffee shops and other places. I used to be a member of the Florida Association of the Deaf. I was a historian and attended meetings. Our goal was to preserve the beauty of the deaf culture and sign language.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

A: I enjoy collecting bibles. I also like to play chess and read.

Q: What do you want the general public to know about deaf individuals?

A: I want everyone to know that deaf people can do anything except hear. Sometimes I get frustrated by others who try to say mean things to me in sign language, but I always know that God says to love your enemies.

Q: Do you have any kind of motto you live by?

A: I like the verse from Philippians 4:13, which says that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Paul Jones and is used with permission.