Kim and Ela participate in the Zoom graduation celebration; L-R , Dale Spoor, Kim and Ela, Carol Carley, deaf graduate Samuel, Nicaraguan sign language teacher Thomasa, and Jon and Kay Root.

By Dale Spoor

On Dec. 17, a Zoom meeting was held to celebrate the graduation of five deaf students from the high school in Altagracia.  Several members of the Special Needs Committee attending the meeting told the students how proud they were of their achievements and offered congratulations.

The students began this journey in 2009, when they learned their first words in Nicaraguan Sign Language. For students who had little to no elementary education, receiving a high school diploma was the result of diligent study, determination and persistence.

Deaf students finishing up the last of their high school studies in the Sister Islands Office

Five families on Bainbridge provided scholarships to cover the costs of uniforms, school supplies and transportation, along with regular encouragement. Also key to their students’ success was support from our office staff, Dora and Santiago, as well as Cláribel Gutierrez, the BOSIA-supported sign language interpreter who translated for the students in their daily classes and helped them with their studies.

For the celebration, Alan Kirk, who assists us with our projects for the blind on Ometepe, signed on from Canada.  Joining from Maine was James Kegl, who developed the sign language dictionary we use in our workshops and assisted in organizing the early Nicaraguan Sign Language workshops on Ometepe.  Tomasa Gonzalez Rizo, one of the deaf teachers who came to the island to conduct the workshops on several occasions, tuned in from Nicaragua.

Two of the graduates plan to continue their formal education to become teachers of the deaf, two will receive training to become beauticians, and one plans to become a professional photographer.