Leo Curry showed it as he hugged his classmates. Joshua Olinger displayed it to the crowd with doubled-handed “I love you” signs. Shanice White said it in her speech — The Kentucky School of Deaf 2011 graduates view each other as more than classmates. They are brothers and sisters.
“Sometimes we fight,” White said. “But, when someone we don’t know tries to tear us apart, we protect each other like family.”
White and her 10 family members flipped their tassels and transformed from seniors to alumni Friday at KSD’s commencement.
The close bonds uniting the graduates — many of whom have been attending KSD together since elementary school — were highlighted throughout the ceremony.
The 2011 graduation film showed the same students racing cardboard horses and trying on graduation gowns, decorating pumpkins and dancing at prom.
In his speech, graduate Bradley Chappell remembered the joy he found on his first day as an elementary schooler at KSD, after years of feeling isolated in public schools.
“People were signing, and hands were moving all over the place, and everyone was laughing and having a great time,” he signed. “I really started to understand the importance of American Sign Language and the importance of KSD.”
Linsay Darnall, president of the Nebraska School for the Deaf Alumni Association, also passionately stressed the value of the school in his commencement address.
His noted that his own high school alma mater has been closed for more than a decade, leaving deaf students in Nebraska with little choice other than entering mainstream public schools.
KSD gave the 2011 graduates the opportunity to find acceptance, receive specialized learning and succeed in a hearing world, he said.
“Never sleep, never rest, only keep looking forward to take care of this school and keep it open,” Darnall signed. “You should continue to have Kentucky School for the Deaf written on your heart.”
Along with that treasured tattoo, Curry asked his fellow graduates to carry with them a message of inclusion that KSD helped him learn.
He said he used to sit at exclusive tables at lunch and see other deaf students sitting alone. But now he asks himself an important question in such situations.
“You need to ask, ‘How can I help my brothers and sisters? How can I make them part of my family and be family?’” he said.
The 2011 graduates have answered that questions, at least among themselves, and, as a family, they gave a final farewell well to their KSD home with a video of them signing the lyrics to a Bryan Adams song.
“I hear the wind that calls your name, the sound that leads me home again,” they signed together. “I will always return.”
The 2011 KSD¿graduates are Joseph Randolph Banks II, Bradley Michael Chappell, Lee Albert Curry IV, Andrew Tyler Floyd, Ivan Gonzalez, John Coleman Johnson, Joshua Lynn Olinger, Brittany Nicole Seward, Aaron Dale Smith, Christina D. White and Shanice Marva Lynn Anne White.
Award recipients at the ceremony were Shanice White, Danville Lion’s Club Joseph B. Balasa Memorial Scholarship; Ivan Gonzalez and Bradley Chappell, Raynes Scholarships; and Ivan Gonzalez, KSDAA Claude King Award.