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May 18, 2007

Sign language interpreter to receive Unsung Hero award

From: Allston-Brighton TAB, MA - May 18, 2007

By Karen Elowitt/Staff Writer
GateHouse News Service

Allston - A-B residents who attended the Living Flag event at Brighton High School last week have already seen Linda Gregorio in action. A sign language interpreter at the Horace Mann School for the deaf in Allston, she was present at the Living Flag to translate for the Mann students who took part.

She said that she loves the fact that her job allows such variety and takes her to such interesting events. “You’re never sure what to expect in this job,” Gregorio said. “It’s challenging. There is no typical day.”

Though Gregorio doesn’t have a familial connection to deafness, she said she started learning to sign because she was always intrigued by languages. “I’ve loved languages since I can remember,” she said. “It was a hobby for me. But I had no intention of it becoming a profession. I thought it would ruin it.”

Eventually she overcame her aversion to making language a career, and got her master’s degree in sign language interpretation from Gallaudet University in 2002. She also knows how to speak a little Spanish, French and Russian, as well as some Chinese that she picked up on a recent trip to China, where she gave three lectures on the importance of sign language interpretation.

But Gregorio’s commitment to helping the deaf does not end when her workday at the Horace Mann School ends. She recently began volunteering at the West End House Boys and Girls Club as a liaison, because she felt it was important to integrate the students into the activities there.

“Often deaf kids end up isolated alone at home after school,” she said. “They need to be able to socialize with other kids, with hearing kids.” So several days a week she takes on whatever tasks are required to get kids to participate in the variety of activities they offer at the club.

“My job there is kind of amorphous — I’m an interpreter, an encourager, a transporter, a parental interfacer and a facilitator,” she said, adding that it doesn’t really matter what you call it, as long as the kids are getting the benefit of her help. “They end up having such a good time.”

For the last two years, Gregorio has been learning martial arts in her spare time, and has even found a way to use this to help her deaf students. Knowing that her coach, Jason Gould of Emerald Necklace Budo in Allston, was interested in working with kids who face special challenges, she encouraged him to teach classes at Horace Mann.

“I feel like Jason took charge of that,” she said. “And the kids love it. They are learning a lot, although their patience can be tried sometimes because martial arts require a lot of discipline. Sometimes I think they’d rather be out running around on a basketball court!”

Gregorio said that she is also involved with community activities such as the holiday toy drive that the martial arts studio organized last Christmas. She said that the studio’s holistic ethic of taking care of the self, as well as the earth and society, appealed to a part of her that has become more prominent as she has gotten older, and is what led her to want to do good things for the community.

“In my 20s, I needed to be selfish,” she said, “but I think I got it out of my system. A few years ago I began to think more about how my actions affect people. I know I can choose how I act and behave. I am becoming more aware, and more able to express that awareness.”
Read about Unsung Hero Louise Bonar.

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