Thursday, May 26, 2005

Deaf student from Suisun City 'speaks' at college graduation

From Fairfield Daily Republic May 26, 2005

Angelena Gayle, left, and Annemarie Villar, right, sign the pledge of allegiance during their graduation from SCC. (Photo By Lynn Larsen/Daily Republic)

Audrey Wong
Staff writer,
Fairfield Daily Republic

ROCKVILLE - Silence was never golden for Annemarie Villar.

Born profoundly deaf, Villar, 25, struggled with reading in her Solano Community College classes. English isn't her first language, American Sign Language is.

"When you hear, you can pick things up fast," Villar said in sign language to the SCC graduating class of 2005.

Not having the sense of hearing hindered Villar in some ways. But that didn't stop her from earning her associates degree and certificate in business administration for administrative assistant.

Being deaf didn't hinder Villar from earning a standing ovation either. Villar was the student speaker in Wednesday's commencement ceremony where more than 800 students from Solano County received their diplomas.

Knees shaking, Villar rubbed her hands carefully before launching into her speech. She signed as her teacher Anne Bevilaqua interpreted.

The Suisun City resident told the packed auditorium how scared she was when she first attended SCC because she didn't know anybody. But she met people, made friends and learned new things.

Silence isn't golden, Villar said. She needed an interpreter in her classes to serve as her ears. Her classmates learned some sign language so they could help her.

Instructors helped give her confidence and ambition, Villar said.

"Anne Bevilaqua, I call her my bulldozer," Villar said. "She pushed and shoved me to succeed."
Bevilaqua sobbed in the middle of signing when Villar credited her for helping her finish school.

During her speech, Villar also gave the audience a taste of the deaf world.

"We have our own slang and our own humor," Villar said. "I have lots of fun with my deaf and hearing friends."

She taught the audience how deaf people clap by raising their hands up and waving them. Villar also touched her lips and pointed her hand to the crowd to show them how to say "thank you."
Afterwards, Villar said she plans to attend California State University Sacramento to learn how to be an American Sign Language teacher.

"I want to tell deaf students keep on trying, keep on trying," Villar said. "Study, study."

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or at

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