Like a celebration at the pitcher's mound after the final out of the World Series, the 11 members of Kentucky School for the Deaf's class of 2005 huddled giddily together as a group one last time Thursday before flinging their mortarboards toward the ceiling of Thomas Hall.
They had just received their diplomas and warmed the crowd by signing along with a bass-heavy remix of the Bill Withers' classic "Lean on Me." Now it was out into the real world.
Commencement speaker Timothy Owens, who teaches at Eastern Kentucky University's interpreter training program, cautioned the grads that they will face many new challenges after leaving the insulated life they enjoyed at KSD, where almost everyone knows sign language and the world is geared to deal with their lack of hearing.
"The world is out there waiting for you. It is the best place for you," said Owens, who is deaf. "It's not going to be easy for you because you grew up at Kentucky School for the Deaf. It's a greater challenge. But don't be afraid when you go out in the world. You will make it a better place."