Tech basketball player tells deaf elementary students to go after their dreams
Red Raiders point guard Luke Adams tells students of his struggles and successes as a deaf person
October 22, 2013
By NATALIE GROSS
Students of the hearing impaired program at Overton Elementary School got a chance to meet one of their idols during school Tuesday, Oct. 22, when Red Raiders point guard Luke Adams walked through their library doors.
The students had been reading biographies in class and decided to research Adams in honor of Deaf Awareness Week. Adams was born deaf and was open to discussing both his struggles and successes as a fellow deaf person with the children — emphasizing that it’s OK to be different and that none of them should let the impairment keep them from achieving their dreams.
“My whole story is you can’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Adams told the students. Sign language interpreter Rena Johnson stood next to him and used her hands to translate for those students who didn’t read lips.
Adams went on to say doctors once told his parents he would never be able to read and write past a second grade level, and friends laughed at him when he spent hours at the gym to pursue his dream of playing college basketball at a Division 1 university.
Adams asked the students if anyone had ever told them they couldn’t do something, and when many raised their hands, he said, emphatically, “It doesn’t matter what they think.”
Adams, 22, is now a junior at Texas Tech studying exercise and sports science and plans to be a basketball coach one day. His credits as a player include a bronze Deaflympics medal which he won with the U.S. basketball team at the games held in Bulgaria last summer.
Bill Fuller, regional deaf program coordinator, said Adams’ visit was a good opportunity for the students to learn about other deaf people in their community — among other things.
“This and every year in Lubbock we celebrate Deaf Awareness Week about the third or fourth week in October,” Fuller said. “It’s an opportunity for our students to be proud of their disability and to know that there are several other people that are deaf in their community. And it raises the awareness level that they have the same opportunities to work hard, go to school, get an education or get a career. We try to involve people that we know in the community by having them come up and be like a role model for these kids.”
And Adams was happy to be that for the students.
“It’s hard, kind of, growing up and friends — those kids can be kind of cruel sometimes. I wish I would have had someone to kind of look up to when I was growing up, you know,” Adams said in an interview following his presentation.
Adams’ speech bears no impediment — something he attributes to his mother and his childhood speech therapists who visited him at home five times a week.
He hears through a hearing aid in his left ear and a cochlear implant in his right— a magnetic hearing device that instantly connected him to the students who also wore one. Without the cochlear implant, Adams said he’d only be able to hear strong vibrations.
The students were full of questions for Adams and hung on his every word. He bonded with a few over their decorative hearing aids and even learned that one of the students was the daughter of Adams’ former sign language teacher at Tech.
One girl asked Adams if he had a hard time in school as a deaf person. After admitting that, yes, his being held back in first and second grades set him back, Adams said, “there’s nothing wrong with it being hard. You just have to give your effort and do the best you can.”
Fuller said the regional deaf program provides services to hearing impaired students in Lubbock and the surrounding counties.
Wheelock Elementary School houses preschool students whose parents want them to be oral deaf students — meaning they learn to talk with their mouth and read lips.
All other students attend Overton, and by the time they reach grade school, all students of the auditory impaired program are mixed together. By high school, the goal is for all students to attend their general education classes without the need for an interpreter, though one is available.
Overton offers free hearing aid fitting sessions to students and sign language classes to parents, Fuller said. And in honor of its students, the school will host a deaf awareness reception Thursday, Oct. 24, at 4:30 p.m.
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