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April 2, 2003

Group signs on for Academic Bowl

From: Portsmouth Herald, NH - Apr 2, 2003

By Sara Newbury

PORTSMOUTH - Ephraim Porter knows geography. Jody Drye knows sports and medicine. Kevin Prior knows math and science, Melissa James knows history, and Amy Weeks knows English and the arts.

The five high school students in Portsmouth's program for the deaf and hard of hearing recently returned from the Northeast Academic Bowl for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students - held this year by The American Sign Language and English School in New York City.

On Tuesday, in a classroom at the end of a third-floor hallway at PHS, the students looked at photos from their trip. They were pictured in jerseys - loaned by the PHS football team for the weekend - and holding up the school's maroon pennant.

The annual Academic Bowl, in its seventh year, is put on and funded by Gallaudet University - a school in Washington, D.C., for deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students that is committed to "sign communication."

"Everybody at the bowl is deaf or can sign," said Donna Schefer, teacher of the deaf at PHS and team coach at the event. "There's a lot of freedom there."

This year's event, held March 13-16, was made up of 16 teams - each with up to five members. Participating teams faced four academic competitions each day, ringing in answers to questions in various categories with light-up buzzers.

The academic challenges and the sightseeing were perks of the trip - funded in part by the Quota Club of Portsmouth and the New Hampshire Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf - but the Portsmouth students said the social aspect was the most important.

"Last year, I never thought there would be so many deaf kids in one place communicating," said Jody Drye, a senior who attended the bowl for the second year in a row. "This year, I already knew what I was going to. I met up with the same people again and renewed friendships from last year."

But the competition was tough, according to Schefer, and Portsmouth faired better the first day.

According to Academic Bowl Web site, the Portsmouth group won three of seven matches against other teams in its pool.

The toughest category was "Deaf Culture." The students agreed unanimously on that, adding that they were interested to learn Gallaudet University invented the huddle in football. Players had to conceal their up-coming plays because other colleges would watch them sign.

Last year, the three Portsmouth students, now seniors, made up the first team ever to represent New Hampshire at the Bowl. This year, the seniors also encouraged Manchester students to go. Teams from both schools met in Boston and were bussed down early to spend more time in New York.

"I had three seniors (Drye, Weeks and Prior) who were wonderful role models for the incoming freshmen (James and Porter)," said Schefer.

Prior has decided to attend the Rochester Institute Technology in the fall, and Weeks and Drye are in the middle of the college-application process. The seniors said they are sad this Academic Bowl was their last.

And Schefer said she'll be sad to see them go. "But the Bowl is a nice way to end for the seniors," she said. "And a nice way to start for the freshmen."

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