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March 9, 2006

Legislators hear need for School for Deaf

From: Wilson Daily Times - Wilson,NC,USA - Mar 9, 2006

By Alex Keown

Daily Times Staff Writer

Speaking through a sign language interpreter, Kendra Davis, a junior at Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, explained to lawmakers how important an environment the institution is for people with special needs.

Speaking to a joint session of the Legislative Education Oversight Committee, which met at Wilson Technical Community College Wednesday morning, Davis explained how the school helped foster her growth as a person and as a student.

Davis, a Goldsboro native, shared stories of her 11 years at the school — from learning to sign to playing sports to preparing for the prom.

"The prom is coming up soon, and it's really important that the junior class sets up a good dance to honor the seniors," Davis said.

Davis also stressed the caring older students show to new arrivals and the faculty shows to the students. She said when she was struggling academically, particularly with math, her teachers helped her prepare for the standardized test.

"My parents told me I had to get good grades, especially if I want to go to college. We worked hard getting ready for the test, and I took it. ... A few days later my teacher came to me and told me I passed, and I jumped up and down with joy," she said.

Those are the kinds of everyday stories that can be found at the school, Davis said.

"It's become a new home for me. I've learned to read, write and sign there," she said.

Jenai Morris, the mother of an ENCSD student with several disabilities beyond hearing loss, stressed the importance of the school. She said her son Malik was becoming a more confident young man because of the care shown to him at the school.

"It's just good Southern loving there," said Morris.

ENCSD serves 53 North Carolina counties and houses 106 students. The legislature targeted the school for closure in 2001, but support from the deaf community prompted lawmakers to keep the school open.

The joint legislative committee heard presentations from Hank Widmer, director of ENCSD, and Rusty Stephens, president of Wilson Tech. Widmer gave a breakdown of the services provided by his school but allowed Davis to add the personal touch.

"Oh, she stole the show," Stephens said after the meeting.

Stephens spoke about the role community colleges can play in what he calls "the second industrial revolution." Finding sustainable energy sources is at the root of the next revolution, he said. Stephens explained his plan for a campus expansion plan with "green buildings," which can sustain their own energy, at the plan's core.

Some of the plans include using solar power, which could be maintained by students taking classes in green technology. He also explained a plan to harness water runoff from the parking lots into collecting ponds. He said the water would run through a filter and then be sent back into the creeks and then the ocean.

"With the lead green technology, Wilson Tech can show the way," Stephens said.

This was one of the first times the joint committee has met outside of Raleigh, said Sen. A.B. Swindell, chairman of the committee. Swindell took 17 of the 20 committee members around his district Wednesday with additional stops at Wells School and then to an afternoon stop at Nash Community College and Red Oak Middle School. Swindell said it was important to get out and see educators in their own environment. | 265-7847

Copyright ©, The Wilson Daily Times, Wilson, North Carolina