IM this article to a friend!

July 11, 2003

Deaf 17-year-old wins scholarship for speech

From: Augusta Chronicle, GA - Jul 11, 2003

By Greg Rickabaugh |Staff Writer

There was something about his hands.

Those who saw DeCarlos Manor give his speech were struck by the teen's raw emotion. You couldn't hear it. The Hephzibah teenager is deaf and speaks by using sign language.

The judges said they could feel what he was saying by his hand and body movements.

"His hands were almost jerking to give emotion to it," said Jack Padgett, of the Optimist Club of Augusta. "For some reason, and I really don't know why, he seemed to be really emotional that weekend."

DeCarlos' passionate speech about standing united won the top prize in the Communication Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, sponsored by Optimist International. By defeating seven district winners in the May contest, he won a $1,500 college scholarship.

Dozens of hearing-impaired students competed across Georgia through 128 Optimist Club chapters, which ended with the state contest at Unicoi Lodge and Conference Center in Helen.

DeCarlos, a 17-year-old rising junior at T.W. Josey High School, also won the recognition of the Richmond County Board of Education on Thursday night, where board members and the audience wiggled their hands in the air, in what was called the appropriate way to applaud a deaf person.

DeCarlos seemed moved by the moment and spoke through interpreter Mary Hancock, a hearing-impaired teacher.

"I learned that we have to try and try again to succeed," he said. "God bless you."

The Optimist Club uses Ms. Hancock to introduce the contest to hearing-impaired students. They spend months preparing and practicing their speeches on a specific theme, which this year was "United We Stand in Optimism."

To get to the state competition, DeCarlos defeated local competitors and then topped five district winners. Some competitors are hearing-impaired but are able to speak their essay while using sign language. Others, like DeCarlos, simply use an interpreter to vocalize their speech.

Contestants are judged on the way they sign, the clarity of the sign language and eye and hand expression.

"It's really a tough competition," Mr. Padgett said.

In his speech, DeCarlos spoke about his dream of starting a community club to help children, especially those who are deaf.

"I would like to be assistant director because I love kids and I want to teach them that no matter what happens, they can come to me and talk," he wrote. "I have dreams of deaf and hearing and hard of hearing working together to improve things for everyone - preparing us for the future."


Excerpts from DeCarlos Manor's award-winning speech:

"Standing together creates a group spirit, a feeling of hope, knowing that things will be all right. Like the commercial years ago, 'I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony."'

"Where do I fit in? I want to be united with others in creating hope for the future. I want to become the business manager for a community club for children, especially the deaf children."

"How do I feel about standing united in optimism? The same as I feel about making this speech. I feel scared, mad, happy, nervous. We must try our best to work together. We must communicate. We can't stop talking."

"Sometimes you don't understand my words and I don't understand yours, but we must be patient and work together. When we work together, all of us win."

© 2003 The Augusta Chronicle. All rights reserved.