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October 24, 2004

Berkmar's Barnes is first deaf Eagle Scout in Georgia

From: Atlanta Journal Constitution (subscription) - Atlanta,GA,USA - Oct 24, 2004

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/24/04

Any Boy Scout knows receiving his Eagle Scout badge is a special occasion. But it is even more so for Ben Barnes, who received his Eagle Scout award on Friday.

Barnes is deaf.

But it's all part of the plan for Barnes, a senior at Berkmar High School. He had a dream when he was young about being the first deaf Eagle Scout awarded in Georgia.

His deafness came from a bout of meningitis when he was 7 months old. Now 19, he has only been spurred on by his disability.

"Some people think just because you're deaf you can't do something, but . . . " he signed to his mother, who translated.

Then, smiling, he put out his fist. "Deaf Power!"

Indeed, Barnes has done quite a lot. At an age when many teenagers spend their time lying on the couch arguing with their parents, Barnes' schedule is full of activities and community work.

Aside from his passion for Scouting, he's on the school wrestling team and volunteers weekly at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite as a sign language mentor.

According to his parents, Jared and Kathryn Knott, his motto has always been, "I will keep going and never give up." He joined Cub Scouts and made his way through the Boy Scout program, joining Troop 587, a Gwinnett Scout troop for the deaf and hearing-impaired. He has since been busy with wilderness trips, earning merit badges, and aiding the community.

For his Eagle Scout project, he built a volleyball court and bleachers, and did landscaping for Gwinnett County's children's shelter.

He will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology's Technological Institute for the Deaf in New York next year and hopes to be an engineer.

Barnes laughs at how his deafness has an odd way of helping him with some of his life's accomplishments.

On one Scout trip, Barnes was kayaking down a river and could not hear his scoutmaster tell him not to try a rough rapid ahead.

Barnes maneuvered the rapid and later realized he was not supposed to, but was proud of how he had done.

"The deaf world can be a lot of fun." he said, laughing again.

© 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution