The winner of a state Optimist Speech Contest has used the scholarship this summer to further his dreams.
Timothy Cooper, an incoming senior at Derby High School, won the state Optimist Speech Contest for students who are deaf without actually speaking a word. Cooper is deaf and talks by using sign language.
In fact, Cooper only took second at the local level with his speech because he went over the allotted time limit. When his teachers advised him to cut the speech, he declined and said he could talk faster to the state judges, who were better versed in reading sign language.
He is somewhat shy, said DHS special education teacher Darrel Randall, who translated an interview with Cooper. However, when Cooper is with other deaf students, he blooms into a completely new personality, Randall said.
“I would sure like to see a lot of people learn to sign,” Cooper said.
Cooper knew his audience and won the $2,500 scholarship from state Optimist clubs. With the scholarship, he was able to attend a summer session at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a school which caters to deaf students.
The session taught him much about the school and what he will have to do to be accepted. The application process will begin during the coming school year.
Cooper is an honor student at DHS, he has served as lab assistant for several DHS classes, is president of the Sign Club and three years was on the successful Academic Bowl for deaf students.
While the Optimist Scholarship paid his fees for the Gallaudet program, Cooper had to work to earn the money for his plane ticket. He worked for Westar Energy to paint and reinstall fencing which had been taken down for the company’s line project near Rose Hill.
He did appreciate the job, but it reinforced his goals to be a surgeon or an attorney. He found he did not like painting and welding and some of the duties required with the fencing job, he said.
As with nearly every aspect of life outside the school building, Cooper finds himself working to overcome communication obstacles. It inspired his Optimist speech of how his optimism helps him overcome his disability.
Cooper is the student who inspired a group of middle school students and their teachers to apply for a Derby Community Foundation grant to fund a sign language class. Since that time the number of classes has grown; there is a Sign Club at DHS and Cooper finds nearly every class he takes has someone who knows sign language to help him in the classroom.
He continues to inspire those who see him daily. When teachers and audiologists at DHS learned he was going to Washington, they raised nearly $400 for him within a day so he could purchase new clothes for the trip, Randall said.
In addition, Derby merchants wholeheartedly supported fundraising efforts for the deaf students in the Academic Bowl when they advanced to a national competition.
“We are really indebted to Derby,” Randall said.
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