It’s that time of year again, and we are thrilled to announce the UAGC 2023 Student and Alum of the Year honorees.

It was no easy feat to pick two members of the UAGC community who stand out. Every student and alum is an inspiration in their own unique way, and we continue to be moved by how tenacious and committed they all are to their journeys. Our students and alum overcome unbelievable obstacles, but so many of them persevere coming out on top to achieve their educational and life goals. Every month, we share their stories in featured Student and Alum of the Month blogs to help keep you all motivated throughout the year.

To help make this difficult choice, we asked UAGC faculty and staff to vote for one current student and one alum from the plethora of this year’s honorees. Now, we have selected our favorite stories and will name our 2023 Student and Alum of the Year!

As hard as this decision was, one student and one alum really demonstrated true #ProudToBeUAGC spirit. We are pleased to reintroduce you to Latisha Porter-Vaughn and Laloni Amos, our 2023 UAGC Alum and Student of the Year winners.

Read on and join us as we celebrate these amazing UAGC community members.

2023 Alum of the Year: Latisha Porter-Vaughn

Spend just two minutes with our 2023 Alum of the Year, Latisha Porter-Vaughn, and her positive energy will leave you feeling a sense of joy and empowerment to pursue your own passions. At the UAGC Spring 2023 Commencement ceremony, she celebrated becoming one of the 1.2% of deaf or hard of hearing people to have earned a PhD, and her infectious spirit reverberated throughout the events all weekend. Now, she has ascended to a new level as an advocate, scholar, and inspiration to those facing extraordinary challenges.

Latisha Porter Vaughn headshot

Latisha is a research associate for the National Deaf Center and a paralegal at the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice, where she has worked for more than 30 years. She is also the co-founder of the Hearing Loss Association of America - Essex County Chapter, Vice President of the Hearing Loss Association of New Jersey, and a board member and chair of its scholarship committee.

Recently, she presented her research and findings at the 31st National Black Deaf Advocacy Conference in Alabama. In August 2023, she was named our Alum of the Month, and in the fall, we featured her in a moving video that perfectly captures her incredible story. Determined to light the path for those facing difficulties in their lives, she documented her story of resilience and perseverance in her first book, “Sounds of the Heart: A Story of a HearStrong Champion Persisting Against All Odds.”

“I aspire to inspire and serve as a role model for college students with disabilities, proving that you can overcome challenges and achieve your goals,” she says. “I’m reminded of Malcolm X’s wisdom: ‘Education is the passport to the future for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.’ This echoes Diana Nyad’s sentiment that the pursuit of dreams is a team effort.”

Since completing her degree, Latisha has secured her first interview for the coveted role of University Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Student Accessibility Manager — a role she has aspired to for a long time. Additionally, she is in the process of training to become a Support Service Provider, driven by the belief in giving back to assist others.

My hearing loss did not get in the way of believing in my dreams and working passionately to see them manifest.

When she learned she had been named UAGC Alum of the Year, she says she was surprised, honored, and grateful, crediting UAGC for helping her succeed.

“This honor holds immense significance, as UAGC played a pivotal role in supporting me through the challenges of pursuing my PhD while navigating hearing loss,” she notes. This award is not just a personal achievement; it symbolizes my commitment to staying connected with UAGC, a place that champions diversity and inclusion, especially for underrepresented students like me.”

Read Latisha’s full story.

2023 Student of the Year: Laloni Amos

Laloni Amos didn’t go directly to college out of high school. Instead, she went right to work, spending more than two decades in the health care industry. Her goal was to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who was a certified nursing assistant at Winnfield Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Winnfield, Louisiana.

Laloni met her intentions with fervor, and worked her way up at Winnfield Nursing, holding nearly every type of position she could at the facility.

Laloni Amos headshot

In 2018, she realized she had hit a ceiling – one she says she couldn’t break through without a college degree. Determined to make a positive change, she enrolled in college and began her journey toward earning her Bachelor of Arts in Health Care Administration. Her progress was halted, however, with not one, but two family tragedies.

I thank God that an administrator I worked under pushed me, encouraged me, to the point where I wanted to go back to school. She said, ‘You’ve got more in you,’ so I had to go that extra mile.

In 2020, her mother, Jackie Foster, passed away from a heart attack at the young age of 56. Just a year later, on July 26, 2021, she faced the unthinkable when her son Javious was killed in a car crash along with two other teenagers. Her life has never been the same.

Eventually, Laloni was able to return to school, and she even established a scholarship in honor of her son. But her career goals have temporarily shifted, and today she is working at a bank while she focuses on completing her degree.

On track to finish her degree in 2024, Laloni is as determined as ever to make her mother and son proud.

“I have done a lot of praying through this process of healing, and I want my story to motivate people to continue their education no matter what their circumstances are,” she says.

Read Laloni’s full story.

Looking Ahead

Latisha and Laloni demonstrate how a successful story can still take twists and turns down unconventional paths and end up at the finish line. The journey is always ongoing, and despite life’s obstacles — like our honorees — you just need to keep pushing forward!
Could you be the next UAGC Alum or Student of the Year?

If you are like Latisha or Laloni and have a unique story, email us at [email protected] for a chance to be featured as a Student or Alum of the Month!


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