celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news

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.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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