Swishes and sign language: St. Mary's School for the Deaf providing students with opportunities

Posted at 6:46 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-16 10:13:19-05

The sound of shoes on the hardwood, a basketball being passed from teammate to teammate, and the crowd cheering. Those are all normal sounds you hear when attending a basketball game.


But it's the one thing you don't hear that makes St. Mary's pretty special.


"There's no voice yelling out of plays or anything," said Lauren, a parent of a St. Mary's athlete. "This is just all them knowing each other and working hard and it's to the credit to this school. This school is just an amazing asset to Western New York."


St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo has had a rich tradition in sports for more than a century, basketball especially.


"We've won championships way back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, so it has a strong tradition here," said St. Mary's Athletic Director Jim Carmody. "It still plays an important role here."


From grade school to high school, St. Mary's fields both boys and girls basketball teams.


Experience doesn't matter because the goal is to get better and give them the chance to play.


"If I was at another school, I don't know if I'd get to play," said student Isa Habeeb. "I'd probably sit the bench and not do much. But here, I'm connected with the school and I'm a member of the team."


Some of these students are deaf while others are hard of hearing.


Some can verbalize. Others can't.


"Sometimes if they're not paying attention to me I have to get in front of them and wave my arms," said student Julia Bronneberg. "Sometimes I don't have to because they're already paying attention to me, they're already looking for me."


All of the athletes have learned to adjust and those who can speak like Nick Barrus, try to make it a little easier for his team.


"I have to read the defenders zone or man to man or whatever," Barrus said. "Then I call out plays and they set up and get things moving."


A team that communicates in their own way and it's pretty incredible.


Most of these students assumed they'd never be part of a team but St. Mary's has given them that and more.


"The team helps each other and it makes me feel like they look out for me," said student Elise Watson.


"This school, they all have easier communication access," said Kioeny Alvira-Jurado. "In the real world, I don't have access to communication easily and here it helps me a lot."


For their parents, it's just as rewarding.


"I feel there's nothing Elise shouldn't do just because she's deaf," her mom, JoAnn said. "I expect her to have the same opportunities, it shouldn't be a barrier for her to be able to do things."


When you think about it, a game like the one St. Mary's competes in isn't really different than any other game you'd watch in Buffalo.


All of the players are aiming to score points, they're all hoping to win and the memories they're making will last a lifetime.


"We hear many many stories from some of the older, former people about they remember playing here in 1973, shot a ball from the corner and it went in at the buzzer," Carmody recalled. "These kids will have the same experiences, same opportunities and hopefully will come back some day and tell the same stories."


Basketball isn't the only sport St. Mary's offers. They also offer volleyball, soccer, track and field as well as a physical education program and summer camp.



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