Silent community

Signs speak volumes at CNCC language class

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When Jeff Reece moved to Craig he was all alone.

Sure, he had his family, but he didn't know anyone who spoke his language, at least not the way he spoke it.

Reece is deaf. He considered signing to another deaf person a treat.

"(My family) knew I was alone with a hearing family," Reece signed to Kevin Haynes as he interpreted Wednesday, sitting at a crowded table at Galaxy Restaurant.

His family sought out Ted and Elberta Cochran, a Craig couple who were both deaf.

"I was excited," Reece signed. "Oh, you're deaf like me."

Alberta, who doesn't read lips, said she remembered meeting Reece and was excited about the prospect of having someone other than her husband with whom to sign.

On Wednesday, Reece and the Cochrans got a chance to meet and chat, something that's happening more frequently now since Kevin Haynes started teaching an American Sign Language class at Colorado Northwestern Community College.

The class meets once a week, on Wednesdays. And once a month, Haynes takes his students out for some real-world experience.

"It gives them a chance to practice because they have to communicate with our three deaf friends," Haynes said. "So they can't cheat."

Most students sitting around the table Wednesday had at least a friend of a friend who is deaf and were eager to learn more sign language.

Kryssi Soule is taking the class because she had a deaf friend in high school and is now toying around with the idea of becoming an interpreter.

"(Haynes) helps out a lot. It's a good class," she said. "It really helps to talk with somebody."

Haynes said he might offer a second course if there's enough interest next semester.

A few seats down from Soule, Deena Armstrong continued her conversation with Reece and others through signing.

"As a hearing person, they're very welcoming," Armstrong said.

Armstrong has known the Cochrans for more than 10 years and attends deaf Christmas parties and ministries.

Elberta Cochran can't read lips. For her, signing is the only way to get a point across. So when she comes across another person who is deaf, it's a welcoming break in her silence.

"We are isolated," Elberta Cochran said about having so few people with whom to communicate.

"I liked to be able to sign to him," Elberta signed, remembering back to when she first met Reece.

"The deaf culture is very close," Arm--strong said. "It's close because they can communicate."

John Henry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or jhenry@craigdailypress.com.

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