150 years of empowerment

150 years of empowerment

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In its 150 years, the Texas School for the Deaf has helped many students believe in themselves.

Before enrolling in the school on South Congress Avenue, Christopher Kearney had always believed that he was “low-functioning” because he couldn’t hear.

“I was kind of the deaf kid,” Kearney said about his experience at regular public school. “I wasn’t that important. Deaf people were considered low-functioning, and, you know, I accepted that. That’s just kind of the way of life.”

But at the Texas School for the Deaf, he learned that wasn’t true.

Like Kearney, many students at the school have realized that they aren’t simply “deaf people.” The school fosters a sense of hope and empowerment in students, reminding them that they are not low functioning but, as Kearney put it, they “can do anything except hear.”

“That really helped me a lot . . . and pushed me to succeed,” Kearney explained. “Deaf people are not weak at all.”

As a leading advocate of rights for people with hearing disabilities and other issues including fighting the stigma often attached to deaf people, the school does more than just provide an education for deaf students. Since its opening in 1857, it has served more than 10,000 students and countless members of the community by providing outreach services, counseling for parents, and resources to help students make smooth transitions into the hearing world. The 477 students currently enrolled come from 61 counties and 146 school districts in Texas, about 12 percent of the 4,000 deaf students enrolled in all Texas schools.

Students, who range in age from just a few months to 21 years old, learn with up-to-date multimedia presentations that have been recognized by Apple, Promethean and Texas Capital Schoolhouse for excellence in technology. They participate in such extracurricular activities as painting, photography, sports, student government and drama.

And for students who were insecure because of their inability to hear, the school provides a close-knit community that builds their confidence and prepares them for successful lives after graduation. Thanks to caring and supportive faculty, Kearney and many other students like him have learned that they are capable and competent.

As the school celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, we recognize its vision of providing a nurturing yet stimulating environment where deaf students can achieve personal excellence. And we applaud the staff that works hard to make it happen.

The City of Austin is proud to have the Texas School for the Deaf as part of the community. We are thankful for its commitment to serving Texans and look forward to many more years of continued service and influence.

Happy 150th.

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