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May 20, 2003

Deaf student learns new hand language

From: LaPorte Herald Argus, IN - May 20, 2003

Off to Ivy Tech

By AMANDA BISHOP — Staff writer

Uly's going to Ivy Tech, a reality that was not possible before he moved to the United States four years ago.

He plans to lead a life of using his hands, something he already does every day to communicate with others.

Ulises "Uly" Jimenez, 20, is a profoundly deaf senior at LaPorte High School.

Uly, as friends and LPHS staff call him, moved to LaPorte from Acapulco, Mexico, when he was 16, searching for a better education.

"The education is a lot better here in America," Uly signed, as Angie Myers, teacher of the deaf, interpreted his words while the two sat in the school library Friday morning. "When I was in Mexico, I was in a public school without an interpreter."

Uly attends his first two classes of each school day with Myers accompanying him.

The rest of his day, educational interpreter Tammie Buel assists him in understanding what his teachers are telling him.

"It was very difficult in Mexico without an interpreter," Uly signed.

It was also difficult to leave his parents, Maria Guadalupe Jimenez-Vera and Roberto Santoyo Alveraz, behind in Mexico, but staying with cousins in LaPorte has helped to make him feel not so far from home.

He communicates with his parents by telephone, with his cousins relaying messages to and from them and Uly.

He'll have at least another year of that communication as he attends Ivy Tech, learning culinary arts or computer science.

He has also considered going into construction.

Whichever path he chooses, El Puente Community Center will play an integral role in helping him to succeed, as Uly was named the first recipient of the El Puente Community Scholarship. Uly indicated he is very appreciative of the center's help and that he feels honored he was awarded the scholarship.

"Mario Rosa (the center's director) has been a very good friend to me," he signed. "He's helped me to explore different college options."

Uly wants to spend at least a year at Ivy Tech, where an interpreter will be available to him, then possibly go on to explore another school. Going to college was not something Uly thought would be possible while living in Mexico.

"I didn't really consider it in Mexico because I was already going to school without an interpreter, so I assumed there'd be no interpreters in college, either," Uly signed.

He is strongly considering Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only liberal arts school for the deaf and hard of hearing in the United States.

"I'd have a chance to communicate with everyone," he said.

As music for the LPHS lunchtime coffee house began to play at the far end of the library, Uly signed that he heard nothing.

But he can hear some sounds with hearing aids, including car horns and sirens, which enables him to drive his shiny new green Ford Mustang.

New language

When Uly came to LaPorte, he had to learn English.

Growing up in Mexico, he had learned Spanish sign language, which differs from the English language on a number of signs.

Now he is always eager to learn more English.

"I like to learn the new words and idiomatic expressions," he signed.

His eagerness to learn is something Myers admires.

"He's a joy to work with," she said after leaving Uly for the day. "He's been a highlight in my 20 years of teaching."

Uly wants to eventually make Florida — with its beaches, sunny skies and lack of cold northern winters — his permanent home.

Copyright © 2003 The LaPorte Herald Argus. All rights reserved.