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November 11, 2002

Pride overcomes disability

From: Elizabethtown News Enterprise, KY
Nov. 11, 2002


When Donnie Dennis roams the halls of Sonora Elementary School, he can't hear the playful chatter of the children who occupy the building.

He can't hear the commotion in the lunchroom. And he can't hear the announcements over the intercom.

Though Dennis is deaf, he doesn't need to hear. The Sonora custodian feels accepted by the teachers and students.

For nearly 20 years, Dennis, 47, has tidied up around the elementary school. He used to work in the lunchroom.

Despite the fact he can't hear, he performs his job proudly.

"I like for the school to be clean and to look good," Dennis said in an e-mail interview.

Sonora Principal David Wyatt applauded Dennis' work ethic.

"He is a hard worker and does a fine job here," Wyatt said.

Dennis arrived in Sonora 26 years ago after attending the Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville. He moved in with his step-grandparents initially, but later moved out on his own and into a house behind Manakee Funeral Home.

"He is a very independent person," Wyatt said.

Former Sonora Principal Carl Henry Ford hired Dennis. Though he spent part of his time in the lunchroom, he said he prefers the late-night custodial shift.

Dennis has been able to communicate well with many at the school. Some of the teachers and staff know sign language, but others are able to communicate with basic hand signals or movements.

Dennis plans to continue his custodial duties for the next three years, at which time he can retire from the public school system.

Copyright © 2002 The News-Enterprise