Deaf CNM Welding Student to Compete in National Public Speaking Contest

June 15, 2016 -- CNM welding student April Vezie will be competing next week in the National SkillsUSA Championships Extemporaneous Speech category, in which she’ll be given a topic five minutes before she’ll have to perform a speech on it.
June 15, 2016

She is one of 14 CNM students who won gold medals at the New Mexico SkillsUSA Competition in April and have advanced to the national competition to be held in Louisville, Ky., June 20-24. More than 6,000 Career Technical Education students, all state contest winners, will compete hands-on in 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields.

“Because of my hearing loss I didn’t speak very well and was constantly being told that I’d never speak clearly or be understood,” she said in an email. “I spent 13 years in speech therapy to help make my speech clearer but was still put down by others for talking funny. I was told I was stupid, retarded and worthless because of that and because of my hearing. I guess you could say competing nationally in public speaking is my way of thumbing my nose at those who said I’d never talk right and put me down.”

Vezie has what’s called a “mixed hearing loss,” meaning that she has both nerve damage and problems with the bones in her ears. The doctors consider it to be severe and progressive since it’s getting worse. Without hearing aids, she hears very little and hardly anything clearly.

She remembers her first national SkillsUSA competition in 2014, when she did a presentation on hands-only CPR. Halfway through the presentation, she froze and couldn’t remember her name much less her finely honed presentation, so she stared winging it.

“It was primarily from that experience that I discovered I’m pretty good at speaking off the cuff,” she said.

She’s the SkillsUSA chapter president for CNM’s School of Applied Technologies and has been a state SkillsUSA officer for the past year, which has provided her with plenty of practice in extemporaneous speaking and stage presence.

At this year’s national SkillsUSA competition, she will be given a topic and be asked to make a speech. She won’t know the topic until five minutes before the presentation.

Vezie started off in the medical field as an Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate (EMT-I), medical assistant and nursing assistant. After being laid off from a medical job at the prison in Los Lunas, she decided to go back to school. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to study, but she knew she wanted to move on from the medical field. She initially decided to study to become an electrician, but that was a mistake. “I hated every minute of it and quit after my second term,” she said.

She’d always been fascinated by metal work and would be captivated by blacksmiths when she went to a fair or a living history museum. It wasn’t until she went to the national SkillsUSA competition in 2014 and tried the Lincoln Electric virtual reality welder tool that she knew she wanted to be a welder. She changed her major and never looked back. She hopes to become a fabrication welder, making everything from furniture to instruments and automotive parts. She’d also like to pursue welding sculpture and blacksmithing as hobbies.

Vezie is married to a former electrician and has 12 step-children.