Graduation Day at the University of Alaska Anchorage means a lot for Katie Irwin. She received her bachelor's degree in journalism and public communications with a minor in art and she made history as the first deaf student to deliver the commencement address.

Irwin gave her speech in American Sign Language, while an interpreter translated and closed captioning was shown on screens in the auditorium. 

"The experiences I have had here have inspired me to learn for life," Irwin said during her speech to her fellow graduates at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Irwin has been deaf her whole life, but does not want anyone to feel sorry for her.

"I'm not missing out on anything. I don't miss what I don't have," she said.

She has called Anchorage home for the last 10 years, after moving from Arizona.

"I felt like I needed a change, I needed something new in my life. So, the word Alaska kept popping up in my brain, and in the environment around me," Irwin said. "I thought, let's do it, let's go to Alaska."

Irwin worked in UAA's Disability Support Services and is a strong advocate for students. She also conducted research into the overall effectiveness of Disability Support Services throughout the University of Alaska System, involving feedback from more than 400 students, faculty and staff.

"The results are [so] DSS can improve our services," Irwin said. "We can be better."

Irwin's accomplishments led her to become the first deaf student to give the commencement speech at UAA.

"I feel so honored and so proud to do this," she said. "I'm representing deaf people and I want to show deaf people can do it and we're very capable."

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