IM this article to a friend!

June 12, 2003

ASD Holds Its 186th Commencement

From: Hartford Courant, CT - Jun 12, 2003

By CAROLYN MOREAU ,Courant Staff Writer

WEST HARTFORD -- In a ceremony that acknowledged both deaf and hearing participants, the American School for the Deaf celebrated its 186th commencement on Wednesday and handed diplomas to 24 graduates.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" was recorded, but the two students who gave a "presentation" of the national anthem in American Sign Language were live.

"It is a very unique school," class President Michael Kennedy told the crowd of family members and well-wishers gathered in the school's gymnasium. Like others who spoke during the commencement, Kennedy used American Sign Language, which was translated into spoken English for those who could hear. Spanish-speaking visitors could listen on headsets to a translation into their language.

Kennedy told the crowd that he could remember being 2 years old and unable to hear or talk to his parents. But his parents, who could hear, were acutely aware of his need to communicate. The couple learned American Sign Language, and then taught it to their son.

"I grew up in two worlds, the hearing world and the deaf world," Kennedy said.

When he grew a little older, he said, he wanted to attend the American School for the Deaf so that he could learn about deaf culture.

"My parents understood," Kennedy said.

The school's Class of 2003 will have an easier time today than previous generations of deaf graduates, said Susan V. Pedersen, a retired communications officer at the Connecticut Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired.

The graduating class has 14 members who are bound for college. Pedersen, who is in her early 60s, said that she cried on her graduation day many years ago because she was scared of what was to come.

In those days there was no closed-captioned TV, no special telephone services, pagers, Internet, e-mail or any other devices that help integrate deaf people into the hearing world.

"If there was an emergency at school, you had to contact your parents by mail," Pedersen said.

Like other deaf people from her era, Pedersen said, she found ways to get by without those devices, just as the Class of 2003 will rise above the challenges that await them. is Copyright © 2003 by The Hartford Courant