Advocate, interpreter, and teacher
A native of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Tony Saccente is the youngest of six children from a close-knit, loving Italian-American family. His parents are Deaf and his five siblings are all Deaf or hard-of-hearing, as are many relatives in his extended family. Of course, he grew up using ASL. He attended the St. Francis de Sales and Lexington schools for the deaf, and NTID/RIT.
Having returned to Lexington to work as an assistant, he noted that some of the young people there were engaging in high-risk behavior and were in need of sex education and advice on safe-sex practices—but school policy prohibited his getting involved.
Frustrated, he joined Housing Works, New York City, an organization where he could advise and counsel Deaf clients directly. He served as Coordinator of Housing Works' Deaf Services program for almost 10 years, administering HIV tests, counseling hundreds of Deaf clients (including some of those Lexington students), advising them on safe behavior and medications, and providing empathetic support to clients whose parents had thrown them out for being gay or HIV+. He also did outreach and community/peer education.
He got results, too. He says, “I saw the incidence of HIV+ among Deaf clients decline dramatically during my time at Housing Works. I am very proud of this success, as it shows the Deaf community really spread the word and took AIDS prevention seriously.” In general, he helped hundreds of clients and saved many lives. He notes that the need for education is ongoing—e.g., reaching newly-arrived Deaf immigrants from other countries.
Still actively involved in community outreach, Saccente now works as a freelance Certified Deaf Interpreter in clinical settings, lecturer, and ASL instructor, with a variety of deaf and hearing clients, ranging from hotel managers to former prison inmates. He enjoys the diversity of his clients and students.
He and his partner, Jeremy Johnson, live in Brooklyn with pugs, Wally and Wilangela, and cat, Moja.