Fully deaf cake decorator moving toward her dream with new job at Ruston Groceries

Fully deaf cake decorator moving toward her dream with new job at Ruston grocer
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 4:30 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2022 at 10:31 PM CDT
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RUSTON, La. (KNOE) - A Ruston grocery store has hired a woman who is fully deaf as its cake decorator, helping her take a step toward her lifelong dream.

Tanisha “NeNe” Vernon-Vergara started her new job at Ruston Groceries early in August 2022. NeNe received on-the-job training with a training coach through a partnership between the Louisiana School for the Deaf in Baton Rouge and a local supermarket when she was a senior in high school. The Louisiana School for the Deaf is also where she met her husband, Josh Vergara, who is hard of hearing.

Ruston Groceries owner Laddie Aulakh says they opened in April 2022 and were looking for a cake decorator. Aulakh learned about NeNe’s previous experience in baking and scheduled an interview with her after Josh encouraged him to give NeNe a chance.

According to Aulakh, the entire interview process was conducted over an exchange of text messages while he and NeNe were sitting beside each other, with the help of her husband.

Josh Vergara said while he and NeNe were relocating to different places, NeNe had a difficult time securing employment. However, Ruston Groceries gave her hope.

“It’s a big challenge,” Josh said, through their interpreter. “The accessibility today is just really difficult to get a job, and not only that, just also with the communication between me and with a potential employer. It’s been an issue. So, I have a hard time for them to understand how to communicate with us. So, we typically would just write back and forth using an iPad, phone, or have an app that we communicate with. But today’s accessibility is, you know, I think we just really want to try and be included and have the equal access and be able to have what other ‘hearing’ people have.”

NeNe says while customers are shopping in the deli department, they can walk up to her, and point to their desired item. She’ll have a paper on her with different items on it to read, match what the customers want and fulfill that order.

NeNe’s goal is to open a bakery one day.