Pageants and passions: PISD teacher uses pageantry to promote ASL education

PISD teacher and Miss Texas for America Strong Angelica-Jasmine Bates uses pageantry Photo by Victoria Gomez.

When she was still in high school, Angelica-Jasmine Bates was cleaning out the garage with her dad. There was a box full of trophies she didn’t recognize.

She turned to her dad and asked, “What is this?”

Offhanded, like it was common knowledge, her dad told her, “You were in baby pageants.”

That’s when Bates began looking into pageantry for teenagers.

A decade later, Bates is the American Sign Language (ASL) teacher as Jasper High School, a job she balances with her role as Miss DFW. She has also served as a keynote speaker and the founder of SignUp! Texas, a nonprofit that offers scholarships to students interesting in pursuing interpreting.

“It really means a lot to do all the things I’ve been able to do,” Bates says. “I can make a difference in so many lives, and that’s something we need. That’s something I’ve needed, and now I can give it back to someone else.”

The desire to help others was what made her love pageantry. Bates was involved with the Miss Texas America competition for eight years, volunteering and building a rapport with the community.

Through pageantry, Bates accumulated enough scholarships to become a student at Southern Methodist University.

“It was my dream and I wasn’t going to give it up,” Bates says. “Even on the days where it was so hard, when I didn’t understand the content or I felt overwhelmed, I just reminded myself that I made it. I was at the one place I had wanted to be at for so long.”

Bates continued pageantry while at SMU and worked on campus as an ASL tutor, along with a part-time job as a clerk at a nearby hotel. She studied communications, wanting to open her own interpreting agency, but struggled in the math portions of starting her own business.

“Statistics blew me out of the water,” Bates says.

She continued using ASL as her talent in pageants, performing skits, monologues and songs. Bates says she makes it as entertaining as she can, sliding across the floor and dressing to the theme of what she signs. After being involved in the Deaf community for over a decade, her former ASL teacher reached out with a job offer.

Bates was hired on the spot.

“[My former teacher] told me she thought I would be an amazing fit for the job because I had the skills and the drive for it,” Bates says. “I absolutely fell in love with the role of teaching because it is the embodiment of being a leader.”

Through pageantry, Bates promotes her platform, SignUp! Texas. The nonprofit was started in 2012 and focuses on three qualities: communication, character and creativity. She uses it to help others express themselves verbally and non-verbally, along with offering scholarships. She plans to later expand to be an extension of her brand, “Her Energy Speaks.”

“Serving others makes me feel like the world is a better place because I have power in it,” Bates says. “I can be a mentor to someone who may have no one else.”

Bates will compete to be Miss Texas for America Strong on May 4 and 5. If she wins, she will go on to compete in Las Vegas to be Miss America Strong.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” Bates says. “There is always a moment where even when you give it your all, you’re just proud of what you did on the stage. You hope for the best, but whatever happens, happens. All you know is that you were able to make an impact on those judges and be a leader for your organization.”

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