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He doesn't understand 'can't'By Chris Ramirez
Zachary Trevathan has never heard the sound of his mother's voice.
Or the latest cut by rapper Eminem. Or cars as they cruise the streets on Amarillo's southeast side.
Still, he's lucky.
He also has no idea what the word "can't" sounds like.
Trevathan will be among the hundreds of Caprock High School seniors who will receive diplomas Saturday.
"I'm an independent man," the 21-year-old says through an interpreter. "I'll always be independent and do for myself."
The cards were stacked against Trevathan at an early age.
He was born with profound deafness. That means his ears cannot detect even the loudest sounds.
Trevathan's parents divorced when he was young, and neither learned American Sign Language. At home, he communicated only with limited gestures.
That went on for years.
Children often teased him. Adults, even his teachers, didn't think he could learn and were puzzled by his apparent lack of progress.
"People always thought I was slow, that I couldn't learn or function like anyone else," Trevathan said. "But they're wrong. I'm just like everyone else."
In middle school, he developed an interest in chess. It was a hobby at first.
Then he got good.
His love for the game would prove significant to his development, said Cynthia Sturkie, who runs the regional education program for the deaf for Amarillo Independent School District.
"It showed his instructors he could learn, that he could excel in academia," she said.
Momentum for Trevathan was building, academically and personally. He went through middle school and high school, refining his sign language skills along the way.
Trevathan now lives on his own. He stays in touch with his father and has only limited contact with his mother, who lives out of state.
He has held a full-time job at Wal-Mart for a year and a half. A vibrating alarm clock in his apartment tells him when to wake up for school and work.
"He's thriving on his own," said Linda Terry, vocational education teacher at Caprock. "It's just so great to see him take off the way he has."
Trevathan said his time at Caprock has allowed him to make friends, but admits he has developed closer ties with those in Amarillo's deaf community.
One of his next relationships likely will be with an auto dealership soon.
He is studying for his driver's permit, and says he has saved enough money to buy his first car.
"I'm working and living independently," he said. "No one has to worry about me. I'll be fine."
Editor's note: Last in the Beating the Odds series published in the Globe-News from May 10 through today telling the stories of students who are graduating despite challenges they've faced. It's part of Celebrate Education, a program designed to bring awareness to the need of educational attainment in the Texas Panhandle. For previous stories, visit www.celebrateeducation.org.
Copyright 2008 Amarillo Globe-News :: Amarillo.com