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January 18, 2003

Student Stumps Richardson

From: Santa Fe New Mexican, New Mexico - 18 Jan 2003

Thirteen-year-old Jessica Roberts stumped Gov. Bill Richardson with her question when he visited a Santa Fe middle school Friday: "How do you feel about having ASL classes in public schools?"

He looked puzzled as the eighth-grader explained she was talking about American Sign Language.

"A lot of people that live in New Mexico are deaf, and nobody knows how to talk to them," Jessica told the governor.

"So what do we do about it?" Richardson asked the De Vargas Middle School student.

Classes in public schools to teach students ASL, she suggested.

"I will look into that," he promised, "because I felt I did not know enough to answer your question."

Then, the governor asked her a question: "Would you accept a position as a student adviser to the commission on the deaf?"

Yes, Roberts said, she would, as her fellow students applauded.

Roberts explained in an interview later that she has two sisters and two grandparents who are deaf, and her mother works at the New Mexico School for the Deaf in Santa Fe.

Roberts learned ASL hanging out at the school, which her sisters attended, and she's teaching ASL to a few of her friends at De Vargas. "I've seen a lot of people just kind of look down on the deaf and stuff, just because they're different. And the deaf do the exact same thing to us, if we can't talk to them."

And Roberts says sign language is useful in another way: "When teachers tell us to be quiet, we can still talk with ASL."

©Santa Fe New Mexican 2003