Michelle Randolph is the true definition of a fighter. A mother of two who is hearing-impaired, she has graduated a year early from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte after overcoming challenges.
The mother of two was born legally deaf. By middle school, a then 12-year-old Randolph just heard a pop sound and all her hearing was gone. The world around her became silent. She had no prior knowledge of American Sign Language, so she resorted to reading lips to communicate with others.
However, it did not stop her from choosing to live life to the best of her ability. She raised her two daughters while deaf and was heavily dependent on her first daughter to help her with phone calls and booking doctor’s appointments.
Randolph first stepped foot on the campus of UNCC in 1989. The determined young woman went through all her classes without the assistance of the resources for students with disabilities, according to the UNCC site. Then a deaf college girl who still did not know how to use sign language, Randolph graduated in 1995 with a degree in Criminal Justice and Political science minor.
With years of being out of school, Randolph still had the desire to pursue a new discipline at her alma mater and her family supported her decision to return to the classroom in 2018 at the age of 47.
Her second daughter, Miracle, was born with cerebral palsy, autism, and brain damage but that did not seem like a herculean task for Randolph, who said raising her daughter was never an issue for her. “Raising her was easy because she was my child,” Randolph said. “She helped me through a lot. She helped me through the last two years of schooling because by seeing her I knew that I could do this.”
Randolph was given another chance at hearing in 2019 when she became a cochlear implant candidate. That meant that she would be able to hear her children speak for the first time since they were born. “When they activated me and I could hear their voices, I was amazed that how I imagined them to talk was actually how they spoke,” Randolph said. “It was just amazing. It was like a lightbulb clicked for me, and I knew then there was nothing, nothing anymore that I could not do.”
Life showed up and threw different obstacles at Randolph while in school. She had to return to the theatre to repair a botched gall bladder which took about six months for her to recover. She returned to school with 67 staples, an oxygen tank, and a walker.
“I wanted to give up a lot. I really wanted to just stop going to school,” she said.
She also lost her grandmother and husband George after he suffered a cardiac arrest last year. The pandemic made things even more difficult. Randolph’s mother was rushed to intensive care and her daughter too was affected by the virus.
Anyone would have thrown in the towel but Randolph had the immense support of her faculty, family, and friends, and she made it through. “I always knew that to get through this season of grief I had to just keep going, but I wouldn’t have been able to do so without the immense amount of support and grace extended to me by faculty,” said Randolph.
“All of my professors in the Africana Studies and History departments have personified the meaning of true grace, they’ve understood my difficulties and each of them in their own way has given me an abundance of care, support, and motivation to keep going.”
The 50-year-old braved her storms and got the chance to experience graduation differently than her previous degree. With her cochlear implants, Randolph was fully immersed in the ceremony, savoring every moment and relishing every sound as it passed through her ears, adding that “the world is so noisy.”
“But it’s a good noise.” She called the whole experience “sunshine after the rain” because “it felt good to be able to hear my name called” during the ceremony, she said.