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January 6, 2004

Teen to sign while Beyoncè sings

From: Houston Chronicle, TX - Jan 6, 2004

Deer Park student selected for role at Super Bowl


DEER PARK -- Suzanna Christy likes challenges. She excels in school and has tried out for color guard, the basketball team, school band and cheerleading squad.

Trying out for those activities might not seem all that challenging for a 17-year-old, but Christy can barely hear. The state of Texas considers her to be deaf, and she struggles to get by without hearing aids, hidden under her long brown hair.

This week, Christy was handed a new challenge: She was selected to sign for pop singer Beyoncé Knowles during the national anthem at the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.

She did not try out for the role. Her sign language teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown gave videotapes and pictures to the Super Bowl Host Committee, and they picked Christy.

When her mom, Kimberly, heard the news Monday morning, she began crying and ran into her daughter's room and nudged her awake.

"I was like, 'She's lying to me,' " Christy said in the living room of her home, surrounded by her family.

"Even now I can't believe it's happening to her," her mom said.

"I've told everyone I know," said her father, Charles.

Christy said she signed the national anthem at high school football games last season, "but the Super Bowl -- there's millions of people watching."

Christy was 5 when, riding her tricycle in the street, she was nearly hit by a car. Her parents did not know what was wrong. They took her to a doctor who said she was merely being a stubborn child and did not want to listen.

A second doctor found fluid behind her eardrums, and she was later diagnosed as hearing-impaired.

She struggled through a Deer Park elementary school that wasn't equipped to handle her needs, her mother said. But in junior high, she attended a school with programs for students with hearing problems and excelled.

That's where she tried out for the band -- the first hearing-impaired student to do so -- and played the flute for three years. The other activities followed, and several other hearing-impaired students joined the band and other organizations in the following years, Christy said.

Last year, she taught her younger sister Charly's drill team how to sign God Bless America, which was part of a performance that won that squad first place in their division.

Now, she and her teacher will practice signing to an audiotape of Knowles singing the anthem. She may be able to hear the singer at the game, but the noise of the crowd and music could pose problems.

"If I practice and practice, I think I'll do all right," she said.

Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle