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June 9, 2004

Northern graduate overcomes obstacles

From: Port Huron Times Herald - Port Huron,MI,USA - Jun 9, 2004

Hearing-impaired student has big plans for future


Sean Howard found high school graduation the less exciting of the two milestones he hit Tuesday.

The 18-year-old from Marysville graduated from Port Huron Northern High School the same day he got his driver's license motorcycle endorsement.

Riding a motorcycle is one of the many ways Howard fills his days, leaving almost no room for someone to guess he's severely hearing-impaired.

"It's a shame that I'm leaving because there's so much more to do," he said.

Just the small aids tucked into his ears and his plans to attend Gallaudet University, a college in Washington, D.C., focused on deaf and hearing-impaired education, might give it away.

At Tuesday's graduation at McMorran Arena, Howard and others from Northern's sign-language program performed their class song for the 339 graduating seniors. But signing isn't easy for him.

"Because I have hearing aids and I hear really well with them, I never signed," he said.

Howard's family discovered he was deaf when his Young 5s teacher yelled at him to get his attention, and he couldn't hear her.

He got his first hearing aids when he was 5 and hasn't stopped going since.

"He's just the kind of kid who would do anything for anybody," said Liz Varty, Howard's counselor at Northern.

He played the baritone through middle school and this year was a teacher's aide to his middle school band director, Cynthia Armstrong, at Fort Gratiot Middle School.

He's an assistant Scoutmaster and an Eagle Scout, which he earned by clearing the nature trail at Port Huron's Thomas Edison Elementary School in Fort Gratiot.

"It looked really trashy. There were bottles, tires and a mattress. That was the most disgusting thing to take out," Howard said.

He was president of Northern's drama club and acted all four years of high school, especially enjoying a children's production.

This summer, Howard will continue his job with the Port Huron Recreation Department, delivering food to parks for the free-lunch program for kids.

"I like all my groups equally. They're all a big part of my life," he said.

He may become a teacher when he finishes at Gallaudet, he said, but he'll start with two years at St. Clair County Community College.

Howard is the son of Richard and Lynda Howard of Marysville.

Copyright ©2004 The Times Herald. All rights reserved.