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June 3, 2006

Rocky Hill valedictorian overcoming his obstacles

From: Providence Journal, RI - Jun 3, 2006

Jordan S. Sack, who has profound hearing loss, is recognized at the top of the private school's class.

Journal Staff Writer

EAST GREENWICH -- To live, according to Jordan S. Sack, is to overcome obstacles.

He should know.

The Rocky Hill School valedictorian was born almost totally deaf, and doctors at Rhode Island Hospital told his mother, Lisa, that he would never hear. Before he received cochlear implants, when he was 10, he had difficulty speaking and could not distinguish voices or use a telephone.

"If someone called my name, I didn't know which way to look," Sack said yesterday, after he delivered the valedictory speech at his private school's 39th commencement. Without the implants, he can hear only thunder, a motorcycle or a jet plane taking off.

Sack's parents wanted to give their son a mainstream education, but they needed a school with small classes, carpets and acoustic ceiling tiles so their son hear the lecture.

Simply graduating from a school not dedicated to educating deaf students would have been impressive. Indeed, administrators praised Sack for just showing up, awarding him the "lifer" award for attending Rocky Hill since nursery school.

But he had higher ambitions, and his accomplishments at the school were celebrated with accolades, standing ovations and thunderous applause.

On Thursday night, Sack, 18, received the Secretary of State's Civic Leadership Award. Yesterday, at the commencement ceremony inside the gymnasium on the seaside campus, he was presented with its top science award and named the 2006 "senior scholar" for earning the highest grade-point average in the 35-member class.

In September, he will start an eight-year undergraduate and medical-school program at Brown University that accepts only 60 students a year.

"When my hearing loss was first diagnosed, it was so severe they said I'd have to sign," Sacks said. His address, only days after his last speech-therapy lesson, proved "the complete opposite of what they said."

Many of Sack's classmates were also showered with praise, with speakers noting that every graduate is headed for a four-year college.

Like their valedictorian, they, too, will face challenges, according to their graduation speaker, Jeffrey R., Seemann, Ph.D., dean of the College of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Rhode Island.

"The world desperately needs you," he told students, putting disease, hunger and terrorism on the graduates' list of responsibilities. "We need your talent, we need your energy, and we need your passion for making the world a better place." / (401) 277-8072

The graduates are:

Austin S. Ahlborg

Elisabeth J. Armstrong

Jaclyn L. Brannon

Alexander S. Carlisle

Julia M. Collins

Tyler M. DiMicco

Miguel A. Dominguez

Zachary S. Galkin

Laura-Hope I. Gammell

Margaret deP. Gordon

Kerra Anne C. Grednuk

Samuel T. Hardy

Alanna M. Harley

Julia B. Harnett

Katherine E. Ingram

Max M. Kaplan

Alexander J. Kohler

Brooke A. Mauran

Jyoti K. Mehta

Ashley S. Nichols

Chelsea E. Pereira

Owen T. Perkins

Emily R. Rosenbaum

Caitlin H. Rush

Jordan S. Sack

Cyrus G. Shehan

William T. Shore

Victoria L. Solomon

Jessica L. Taylor

Brynne E. Underhill

Bianca J. Ursillo

Laura E. Verardo-Goodrich

Mariah M. Vietri

Arthur O. Wellman IV

Scott W. Wilson

© 2006 The Providence Journal Co.