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May 28, 2007

School for deaf, blind graduates 14

From: Helena Independent Record - Helena,MT,USA - May 28, 2007

By The Associated Press - 05/28/07

GREAT FALLS (AP) — Two songs presented in sign language were part of the farewell that 14 graduating students bade the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind in a weekend tribute.

Most of the seniors who graduated Saturday were ‘‘tykes’’ when they began attending the school, Principal Diane Mood said.

‘‘We’re just really close-knit,’’ said Tearra Donovan, who was president of the senior class and plans to attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. ‘‘Just like brothers and sisters.’’

About 700 people gathered in a gymnasium to watch the graduation of students from Billings, Cascade, East Helena, Great Falls, Hamilton, Laurel and Missoula.

Commencement speaker Frank Turk, a vice president at Services for the Deaf in Sioux Falls, S.D., delivered a message about challenge and self-empowerment, collaboration and unity.

‘‘All famous individuals throughout history — deaf and hearing alike — attribute success to self discipline,’’ Turk said with his hands. An interpreter relayed his speech to the hearing audience.

After receiving their diplomas, some of the students raised their arms high and extended their index fingers, their smallest fingers and their thumbs to express ‘‘I love you.’’

The audience’s ovation was in the form of arms stretching skyward, with hands moving quickly from side to side.

Reacting to the sendoff, teary-eyed Superintendent Steve Gettel said, ‘‘I didn’t think it was going to be this hard.’’

© Helena Independent Record