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December 4, 2004

Teens help bridge deaf culture gap

From: The Argus, CA - Dec 4, 2004


FREMONT -- Anyone studying a foreign language remembers that feeling -- paralyzing fear when first faced with a person fluent in the language you were trying to master.

The same sensation was prevalent among the two dozen Horner Junior High School students who descended on California School for the Deaf's campus this week to practice sign language and learn about deaf culture.

Lauren Carrillo, 13, was "like really nervous to come," she said.

"I was going to feel awkward if I didn't know how to say something."

For many Horner students, it was the first time they met, let alone signed with, a deaf person. But once the initial butterflies settled, Lauren and her classmates loosened up and began commu-

nicating with their new friends.

Horner sign language teacher Frankie Gunter said students usually find they have much in common.

"(My students) come back saying, 'Wow -- I didn't really realize they'd be just like us,'" said Gunter, who has been bringing Horner students to the school for nearly 13 years.

School for the Deaf students will visit Horner in January.

Manuel Valle, 14, said he had fun teaching his Horner partner new signs.

"I learned if he doesn't understand something, I have to help him understand," he said through Veronica Kenny, a School for the Deaf teacher acting as an interpreter.

Manuel and other students competed in relay races in the school gym and raced to answer questions for a scavenger hunt that took them throughout the campus.

Nha Kim, 12, slowed down her signing to communicate with Horner student Jessica Amezcua.

"I think it's really cool that we get to meet a student from another school," she said through Kenny.

Before darting off to class, Nha quickly scribbled her address on a piece of paper for Jessica.

"I learn from her, and she learns from me," Nha said.

Staff writer Grace Rauh covers education for The Argus. She can be reached at (510) 353-7010 or .

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