Sign of goodwill: Santa pays visit to deaf students

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

LILBURN -- Students in Rebecca Minor Elementary School's deaf and hard of hearing program got the chance Friday to present their wish lists to Santa Claus.

But this visit from Saint Nick was more than an opportunity for the children to ask for toys, games and bicycles. For the first time, many of the students were able to talk to Santa using American Sign Language.

Ashton Aubrey, 9, said it was the first time she had seen Santa sign.

"I think Santa coming to visit is good," Ashton said through an interpreter. "Really cool."

Ashton said she asked for a striped zebra blanket, guitar and a bicycle.

Jasmine Rivera, 9, said she planned to ask Santa for another puppy -- a female Yorkie. Her family already has a male Yorkie named Chocolate.

"I liked it when (Santa) came to see me," Jasmine said.

Jasmine said she wasn't surprised Santa learned to sign. She said she thinks he can speak Spanish, too. (In fact, Santa was played by Berkmar High teacher Greg Owen, who is deaf.)

Bonnie Reynolds, who teaches third- and fourth-grade students who are deaf and hard of hearing, said she thought Santa's visit was "wonderful."

"I have a deaf daughter, and this (level of service) wasn't always available to her when she was growing up," Reynolds said. "(Now), we really try to meet all of their needs."

Minor Elementary's deaf and hard of hearing program serves students from throughout Gwinnett County. The program is also offered at Berkmar Middle and Berkmar High.