BRATTLEBORO -- Students and staff at the Austine School for the Deaf spent Monday celebrating deaf culture, and exploring the possibilities that life holds beyond the walls of the Brattleboro school.
Every year the school holds its PAH! Day, which is an Austine tradition that encourages students to set their sights high.
Pah is an American Sign Language term that can show a variety of emotions such as elation, personal victory or joy.
Austine School has developed the day which helps the students think about those in the deaf community who have gone on to successful careers.
"This is a day the students can celebrate their identity," said school Director Janet Dickinson. "It's a day to let them know about the people who came here before them."
At the school Monday, Christy Smith, who was the first deaf contestant on the CBS television series "Survivor," flew out to Brattleboro to communicate with the students.
PAH! Day was started by former Austine School student, a poet, Clayton Valli, who came up with the idea of spending a day to talk about deaf culture.
The students spent the morning making a list of questions for former teachers, and in the afternoon the group visited the school's museum on the fourth floor which features stories and photos of former Austine School students.
Jean Lacy-Limoges, who has been teaching at Austine School for 30 years, says the organizers try to show the Austine students
She says it is important for the students to understand that while they might have disabilities, there are people out there with the same challenges who have made a contribution.
"We want to inspire them and make sure they know there are role models out there," Lacy-Limoges said through an interpreter. "If, at the end of the day, a student has that spirit, and thinks they can do it, then we have been successful."
And Brittainy Broughan, who also teaches at Austine, reminded the students that while it was important to admire people who become well known, there are deaf people who take their places in all levels of society.
"Deaf people can be successful just like anyone," she said through an interpreter. "We want them to see people like us. We made it. We can do anything."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.