Emma Faye’s smile is contagious. I did not get the chance to meet with this busy gal face-to-face for her Her Campus debut interview, but just reading her answers brings a grin to my face. Knowing Emma personally, I can confirm that her responses are not those of a wanna-be hipster – she genuinely frequents coffee shops and sings at cute venues like that of a Disney princess! She’s not the damsel in distress though, but rather the heroine of a story far bigger than her own. Rudkin, almost 19, has accomplished more in her college career than most women can dream of by graduation.
When she isn’t busy attending events as a public figure having won miss San Antonio, she can be caught on her laptop at local coffee shops making ads for Younglife and running her website and non-profit, Aid the Silent. It’s all humble graciousness with Emma though. She can’t help that she’s effortlessly gorgeous and the only girl I know who can rock a ball gown with her favorite pair of bright yellow converse! It is truly impossible to have an encounter with Emma and forget her, but just in case you never get lucky enough to bump into our campus celeb at UTSA, read on to learn more about this unforgettable gem!
Age: one month until 19!
Hometown: Boerne, TX
Involvement: Miss San Antonio, Younglife Leader, Creator of aidthesilent.com
Quote to live by: “Give away love and grace like you’re made of the stuff.” – Bob Goff
Three words that describe you: Quirky, Adventurous, Smiley
Her Campus (HC): Why did you come to UTSA?
Emma Faye (EF): Going to UTSA was not the original plan, but now looking back, it was the greater plan all along. I am from a small town right outside of San Antonio and longed for big city adventure. I had dreams of living in the artsy cities of Nashville, Austin or Charleston. Towards the end of my senior year, I finally decided on Belmont in Nashville to study Graphic Design and to develop songwriting. I was booking the plane ticket to start looking for a place to live and a roommate, when all of the sudden, the bluebonnets bloomed and a great heaviness settled in my spirit. All I could do was cry and I could not eat or sleep. I desperately wanted my Nashville living, but I knew God had other plans for me, something bigger and better. People always tease me that I make massive life decisions off of flowers (sometimes I do), but really it was a sign that my purpose and calling would continue in San Antonio. A job offer from an organization called Young Life also played a role in staying close home.
HC: Can you tell me about your condition and how it was growing up partially deaf?
EF: I am profoundly-severely deaf and lost most of my hearing when I was three years old from a high fever. My deafness makes me have a strong accent and when I was younger this really stood out. Also I wear big chunky hearing aids and that stood out as well. So overall in my life, I have always stood out as different and a little weird, and that started to be pointed out in not nice ways by people around me. I became angry with God and wanted nothing to do with religion. It was painful to talk out loud and I was consumed by insecurities and resentment towards my deafness. I did not like myself for the longest time. When I was fourteen, everything changed because of an encounter with Jesus at a camp. I saw how much He loved me, and I started to see and love myself with the eyes of my loving Father instead the harm-seeking eyes of the world. He taught me that my deafness was being used to shape and mold me, but it would no longer define me. It was not my name or my identity to be the “deaf girl” but just to be His little girl.
HC: What are common misconceptions about the deaf?
EF: What I have experienced the most is people trying to shout or yell and over enunciate, that does not help at all and only makes it harder to communicate. Talk to me like a normal person because the yelling and super exaggerated talking makes me feel dumb or that I am not capable of carrying a conversation. As long as the person speaking with me is facing me and talking at a normal pace and volume, we are going to be fast friends. Also there is a misconception that the deaf require special treatment. The only thing I need is for someone to communicate well with me and I can do the rest. The most hurtful misconception is when people think I cannot talk or think for myself, and talk me over to my friend or family thinking they will translate the conversation back to me.
HC: Do you ever feel people treat you like you are disabled or don’t take you as seriously and how do you deal with that?
EF: Weekly, I could listen or over read into certain encounters. Yet, the choice is mine whether or not to take that as my identity. I used to believe every ounce of being “disabled,” but now I know my lacking in hearing is my story to proclaim freedom against that label for others. I know that people just don’t know about deafness and are curious to know more. Now I see people’s questions and curiosity as an opportunity to share my story and truth over the situation. I have forgiven the people of the past and the ones that will come because I was first forgiven.
HC: Please tell me about your non-profit organization and how and why you founded it?
EF: Aid the Silent is an umbrella system of support for four different distinct areas of needs. There are branches for deaf education, deaf resources, deaf ministry and deaf research. The funds raised will support programs that train deaf educators so that deaf and hard of hearing children/teens reach their full educational potential. Deaf children and/or teens, ages 2 to 18 can apply for scholarships and economic assistant for hearing aids, FM systems and speech therapy. It also supports organizations that provide research funding to hearing scientists who lead the fight in finding treatments and technological advancements for hearing loss through medical and technological research.
Aid the Silent has a huge ministry heart behind it because the God of the universe is who finally shifted within me that I could do all things, and I know that He does the same in others and will do so for the deaf if given the proper grounds. Aid the Silent wants to create holy grounds for our deaf friends to meet Jesus. Deaf ministry branch will provide life-changing opportunities to be able to attend Christian camps and events to hear and learn about Jesus. To teach you are not alone in your struggles, everyone has a battle, but with Jesus you can experience true joy and life to the fullest.
Thankfully growing up, I had access to many resources in order to succeed and not be held back by what was seen as a “disability.” The vision for the nonprofit started after reading some heartbreaking statistics about the deaf. It said that “45% of deaf individuals do not graduate from high school and only 5% graduate from college” (Dallas Hearing Foundation) and another source said “less than 2% of the deaf have an active relationship with Jesus” (Gate Communications). It showed me that I was very fortunate to have been born where I was and to have the parents that I have. That stirred something deep within me and drove me to start Aid the Silent.
HC: Where do you see your organization in a year?
EF: I love dreaming big and seemingly impossible things… For Aid the Silent to be well known on a national level, to send deaf teens to a Young Life camp, to provide a new pair of hearing aids monthly, and to create a trending social movement for the deaf.
HC: What or who is your inspiration?
EF: First and foremost always, following Jesus has been the greatest inspiration. The way He loves people where they are, has taught me so much in my everyday relationships and encounters with people. The adventure with Him is unpredictable yet the safest thing I have ever known.
HC: How has Young Life changed you?
EF: Young Life introduced me to living life to the fullest and has really molded me into who I am today. Young Life stood out to me because they did not beat the Bible over heads or force doctrines and beliefs, but they gradually warmed people’s heart to understand. Honestly, I had never seen that before.
It brought to light that I had developed this mindset of being a “perfect” Christian. I became very judgmental and legalistic, frowning down on those who outwardly sinned, firmly believing that I wasn’t supposed to associate with those sorts of people, which was deliberately disobeying God’s mandate to share the hope that is within me to people outside my comfort zone. My belief was shifted and I learned not be judgmental or hypocritical of another’s sins. There are no secret sins. God looks at the heart, and what someone commits outwardly – I commit secretly, still trying to protect this “untainted” persona. The meaning behind, “don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than you,” renewed my thinking forever. I came to understand that the impact of Christ in this world is not that he preached and condemned, but that He simply loved. Man takes Christianity and molds it into many twisted forms, almost unrecognizable to those around him. Young Life takes the pure roots of Christianity and makes it uncomplicated again. There are no religious rules or sacraments imposed upon people, but the unadorned belief in the love of Jesus. The belief which takes someone who is thought to helpless and hopeless, and turns them into a beautiful, transformed creation.
HC: What motivates you to be so selfless and help others?
EF: I was deeply loved in the midst of being unlovable, and the most selfless people pursued me when I was hard to love, so my life is dedicated to daily point to the One who is the source of this love. This love has no motives or strings attached, and drives me to go out and proclaim this message to other who feel the darkness I once felt.
HC: What’s your favorite way to de-stress or bounce back from failure?
EF: De-stressing means being adventurous and making the ordinary day extraordinary. I love driving around with the windows down while blasting good blues. My very favorite thing to do is find a new coffee shop, read a good book, write poetry, and make random conversation with people. Last time, I became friends with an old guy who was learning Italian so he could read Walt Whiteman in Italian. If I stayed to my own little world without looking up from my book, I would never have any good stories to tell! I have the most random, bizarre yet cool moments because I sincerely love talking and getting to know people and their stories. Playing piano or guitar is the place I love to escape when I feel overwhelmed. There have been many midnight piano sessions when I cannot sleep (just ask my family…) and many silly songs have been written when I have no more words to say.
HC: How has competing in pageants and becoming Miss San Antonio helped you in your endeavors and as a person?
EF: There is great intentionality behind why I chose this particular pageant circuit of the Miss America organization. I truly believe in the Miss Texas and Miss America organizations and all they stand for. It empowers and provides scholarship for women to achieve their dreams and make a difference. By winning Miss San Antonio, I travel all over and do appearances. So far I have spoken on television, met some very important people in our city and have been able to speak at conferences on a regular basis. My platform is “Aid the Silent: Turning a Disability into an Ability” and the Miss Texas organization beautifully partners with me and helps kick start my cause and nonprofit into a bigger playing field.
As a person, I have grown in unexpected ways. This role has required me to face the very insecurities of my past about my appearance and speaking head on. The beautiful part is that I am living in the redemption of my story. The things that I used to let prohibit me from fully living are now propelling me into succeeding in this competition.
HC: What is your biggest goal for 2015?
EF: Going back to dreaming the seemingly impossible… I would love to win Miss Texas and go on to compete in the Miss America competition. Although honestly, I am up for whatever adventure comes my way in this coming year, my life is completely open to wherever I am called to go. There are several little goals I am looking forward to as well… Learn a new instrument like the harmonica or the drums; go through Wilderness training with Young Life and become a guide through the Colorado mountains; release an EP with original music; develop video and graphic art skills further; publish a devotional or book; backpack through the Swiss Alps. Big goals but I like to dream big!
HC: What has college taught you?
EF: College has taught to burst outside my little comfort bubble and truly know people. Since first grade, I attended a tiny private Christian school and the diversity of cultures and people AMAZES me on campus. I love meeting new people and making friends from all different backgrounds. It has taught me how to pursue friendships and make an effort to hear their stories. Something I have been making myself do this past semester is to put my phone away when walking to classes and intentionally smile at people walking by. When I pay attention to those around me, I run into people I know all the time and that easily makes my day.
HC: What is your best memory from the past year in college?
EF: Through College Life (Young Life on campus), we take road trips together all the time and I have lots of crying-laughing stories, but the one that stands out the most is a tender moment. All of us were staying in a preschool and we discovered an old guitar. The most, organic worship session started to naturally happen and it lasted 3 hours straight. We were all crammed in a hallway and more and more people started coming to join in. I loved it because people who we had no idea could play and sing, started to jam out and it was so beautiful. No shame in admitting, I definitely bawled like an infant.