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August 10, 2004

Local woman lends her ears and hands to deaf concert goers

From: Hollister Free Lance, CA - Aug 10, 2004

By Christine Tognetti/Staff Writer

Hollister native Kat Shattuck has to sit on her hands in church - and for a very good reason.

Every time the bubbly 19-year-old hears music or people talking, she can't help but interpret the words into sign language.

"It's really embarrassing," she said. "I'll be cruising around school listening to my headphones, and not even know I'm signing until I realize there are people giving me pretty funny looks."

Shattuck began interpreting her freshman year at San Benito High School in order to rebel against her parents, and since then has developed a passion for sign language, and the deaf community.

"Everyone is required to take a foreign language, and my mom was like 'take something you'll be able to use like Spanish,'" she said. "So naturally I took sign language instead."

In a sense, Shattuck did take her mom's advice, even if she didn't know it then. After two years of classes, the pastor at her church asked her to interpret for a man at church who was deaf.

"I was so nervous," she said. "I kept thinking 'I hope I have some kind of divine assistance here.'"

What she thought was going to be a one Sunday deal, turned into a two-year stint, and Shattuck got so comfortable with her skills, that she went public with them. During her junior year of high school, she took a job, which seemed to be designed just for her, as an interpreter for summer concerts at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

"I love being on stage, I love music and I love deaf people so this job was meant for me," she said.

Every Friday night, for the past three summers, Shattuck has stood in the corner of the Beach Stage at the Boardwalk, dancing, clapping her hands and being the ears for the deaf community who attend the concerts.

"Since I've been up there dancing and signing for three years, a lot of the people know me, and they'll yell out my name and stuff," she said. "It's fun and all, but I had a hearing person come up and say 'I've been watching you more than the band,' and I always cringe when I hear that, because that means I'm stealing the show, and I'm not there to do that."

After her summer wraps up, Shattuck will begin a new chapter in her interpreting life. Instead of returning to school at Utah State University, she has chosen to attend Ohlone College's interpreting program in Fremont, which is one of the best around. Only 10 people get accepted each year, and Shattuck is thrilled to be getting started.

"It's going to be so nice learning and participating in what I actually like to do, and what I'm passionate about," she said.

After the two-year program, she hopes to go onto Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. to earn a degree in interpreting. Even in her sixth year of signing, Shattuck said, she's not sure what has inspired or motivated her all this time.

"Maybe I'll find out later in life, but all I know is it makes me happy," she said. "And that's good enough for me."

© 2004 Hollister Free Lance