Family tragedy forced student to grow up

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Photo credit: Sharday Askew, Contributing Reporter

Everyone makes attempts at being a better person. Typically, many wait for a new year or a near death experience to declare the ever so predictable, “I vow to…..” or the world renowned “ from here on out…” speech, to mark the beginning of a self proclaimed resolution.

For 28-year-old Cole Mccandless, a family death transformed his world and asked,“What more can I do?”

Mccandless, is a double major in Deaf studies and Pan African Studies. Mccandless grew up in Lake L.A. with his fraternal twin brother, Caleb Mccandless, who is deaf.

“We‘ve always been extremely close” Mccandless said.

At the age of two, tragedy struck the Mccandless household when his father died. Mccandless was forever changed after his father died in a tragic car accident, he said.

“My mother told me that the day my father died, was the day I grew up,” he said.

Indeed he did, at the age of 18, Mccandless co-wrote and created a sketch comedy show that aired to an audience of over 6 million. NBC soon offered Mccandless a job.

“At the age of 18, I had a dream job as an Assistant Director for the news, so school was put on the back burner,” Mccandless said.

Doreen Mccandless, Cole’s mother, had also been postponing her education to raise her twins boys.

“My mother wanted to go to school, so I worked hard to make sure she could,” Mccandless said. “Being there for my family is second nature to me.”

Five years later, Mccandless’ aunt moved in to share the financial burden. This prompted his enrollment in school, he said.

Mccandless decided to get his bachelor’s degree in Deaf studies and Pan African studies.

Since Mccandless is neither African American nor deaf, he said that he receives a lot of critism for his majors.

“Some people think I should be doing something more traditional,” Mccandless said. “Too bad, it’s my life. I sit in classes where I’m the only Caucasian, and I’ve been asked if I feel uncomfortable. My answer is no. I’m just experiencing what the average black person is experiencing everyday.”

This disconnect between Americans is an ongoing issue, he said.

“A huge misconception of the deaf community is that deaf people are handicap, or disabled,” Mccandless said. “They don’t need help. The only ones that do are the ones in the dark about the truth.”

Mccandless has four jobs, one of which is a volunteer position. He also volunteers during the holidays at foster homes, does community service and is on the council board in his hometown.

Mccandless said he loves his family.

“When I was two years old, I told my mother I’d take care of us,” Mccandless said.

Despite not having his father around, Mccandless has grown into an extraordinary man.

“I want to educate the people that think their superior just because they (have) a lighter complexion,” Mccandless said. “Those are the people that truly need help, as cliché as it may sound. If everybody did something, rather than nothing, this world would be a better place. I firmly believe that.”