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May 15, 2003

Local girl named valedictorian at deaf school

From: Solanco Sun Ledger, PA - May 15, 2003

By: Lynn Ney May 15, 2003

Danielle Graybill is a typical teenager.

The 18-year-old senior from Quarryville is vice president of her class at school, has a 3.97 grade point average, is a peer mentor, and is captain of the volleyball, basketball and track teams.

But what makes her different from other teenagers is that she is deaf and has been all her life.

Graybill, the daughter of Richard and Sherry Graybill of Truce Road in Providence Township, has been named valedictorian of her graduating class at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Pittsburgh. She will be using sign language to give her speech at the graduation ceremony June 6.

"I was really surprised - I thought 'Wow, I'm the mother of a valedictorian,'" said Sherry Graybill, who added that Danielle was "shocked" to learn the news.

Danielle will also be crowned May Queen at the school's annual May Day celebration Friday, May 23. Her father will be escorting her to the event.

"She really is something," said Sherry Graybill. "She is just so remarkable."

Danielle has been accepted at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., for the fall, the only university which serves more than 21,000 deaf and hard of hearing students.

She would like to be a social worker or physical education teacher and study drama.

In a scholarship application letter to the university, Danielle wrote, "Communication is a very big barrier, but I believe through education deaf and hard of hearing people can come together in the workplace as well as in all other aspects of life."

She received an $8,000 New Student's President's Scholarship to attend the university, which costs $19,360 a year.

Also in the scholarship letter, Danielle wrote that she feels her biggest accomplishment is being a successful deaf person in a hearing world.

Danielle has attended the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf since the eighth grade. She stays there throughout the week in the dorms and comes home on the weekends when she isn't busy with sports, which is hardly ever.

"She just thrives in the school environment," said her mother, smiling.

Graybill is also vice president of the Girl's Athletic Association, is treasurer of the Junior National Association of the Deaf, and is a member of SIGNSHINE, a sign language entertainment group.

Some of her other accomplishments during her school years include winning the Theater Class Award and the Presidential Fitness Award in 2001-02. Last year she won Miss Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and went to Washington D.C. to compete in the Deaf Teen America 2002 Pageant in which she placed second runner-up and earned an award for best talent.

In her freshman year she was chosen to go to Space Camp in Alabama and got the Right Stuff award.

She has also been named Most Outstanding Female Athlete as well as earned the All-Star award for basketball, Most Valuable Player award for track and field, and the Coach's Player award for volleyball.

Sherry Graybill said it's devastating to find out your child is deaf, but Danielle has never let it stop her from being successful in a hearing world. She said Danielle's brother, Richard, 21, is not deaf, and just adores his sister.

When cocular ear implants came out to provide some hearing to deaf people, Sherry Graybill said Danielle didn't want them.

"Being deaf is what makes Danielle Danielle," she said. "She is very proud to be deaf."

©Solanco Sun Ledger 2003