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April 15, 2004

Boaz - just another promising student at Hilhi

From: Hillsboro Argus, OR - Apr 15, 2004

By Ellen Ast

The Argus

Sports. Dating. College?

At sweet 16, a calm, confident Boaz Edmunson seems undaunted by the academic and social responsibilities that may creep into the lives of teenagers.

The Hillsboro High School junior recently completed his PSAT test and is thinking about attending college in California and studying computers.

And his advanced physics class? A challenge, but worth it, Edmunson says.

"I like to know how things work," Boaz explained.

Yet beyond the banter, bustle and laughter that echo through Hilhi's halls, Edmunson says his own set of challenges have included adjusting to a competitive world of sound.

Edmunson is one of around 200 hearing-impaired students supported by a regional Deaf and Hard of Hearing, or D/HH, program that includes Washington, Columbia, Tillamook and Clatsop counties.

Next year, Edmunson and six other hearing-impaired members of the class of 2005 will be the first group from the D/HH program to graduate since the program became available in the Hillsboro School District seven years ago.

"It's an exciting time for that group," said Jill Bailey, coordinator of the D/HH program. "Most are aspiring to go to college."

The D/HH program offers academic, social and financial support to hearing-impaired children and students from birth to 21 years of age, and is supported by state and federal funding.

Preschool and elementary students living in Washington County begin deaf and hard of hearing-supported education at Groner Elementary. Students continue at J.B. Thomas Middle School and finish at Hilhi.

Bailey says during early education, emphasis is placed on learning American Sign language. Groner teachers say most sign is learned through the curriculum, that includes deaf culture, deaf studies and immersion in mainstreamed classes.

Hearing-impaired students follow an IEP, or individualized education plan, that includes a transition process at age 14.

"It says, 'how are we preparing this child for life after high school?' The child becomes part of the team," said Carol Jo Kennedy, an elementary teacher for Groner's deaf education. The student may begin attending yearly IEP meetings with their parents and help map out their own goals and needs for high school.

Boaz Edmunson, who has 50 to 60 percent hearing ability with hearing aids, joined the program three years ago after he moved to Tigard with his family from southern Oregon.

Edmunson says life before and during most of his freshman year at Hilhi were the most difficult.

"When I was young, life was more simple and I didn't think about others. I wasn't afraid," Edmunson said, through quick, intricate movements of American Sign Language, his primary form of communication.

"As I became older, I began to think about myself and I became less assertive and confident."

Boaz says life changed when he joined Hilhi's tennis team in the spring of his freshman year.

"I became more assertive and began to make more friends."

Since then, Edmunson has played for his school's soccer, basketball and track and field teams and walks to work out at 24-Hour Fitness after school.

"Sports became the tool I needed to become more confident. Sports have helped my social life and I'm beginning to see that people don't care what happens if you approach someone and you are friendly," Boaz added. "They'll be willing to be friends."

Edmunson says he and other students from the school's D/HH department enjoy maintaining friendships with the "hearing," or those without hearing impairments.

Edmunson attends regular classes with sign language interpreters.

Bailey says in high school, the D/HH program emphasizes adulthood independence, that is taught in deaf culture and deaf studies classes.

"Boaz could step into a college and get access to support and he could communicate that on his own," Bailey added.

Copyright 2004 Oregon Live. All Rights Reserved.