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PCHS grad to serve as interpreter again

On April 17, 2007, the day after the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, Jerome Thomas, a native of Pulaski County, served as an interpreter for the deaf when President George W. Bush spoke during a ceremony at the university. 
On Feb. 9, 2008, he interpreted for former president Bill Clinton at a political rally on the VT campus. 
 And next Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, Thomas will be interpreting for a third president in just three years when he travels to Washington D.C. to serve as an interpreter at the inaugural ceremony for president-elect Barack Obama.
“It’s something I would have never imagined possible,” he said.
From what he has been told, Thomas will be one among as many as 30 interpreters at the ceremony, with two to three stationed on platforms throughout the crowd so that individuals who are deaf will have the opportunity to see them.
Thomas said he was contacted this past Tuesday about interpreting for the inauguration.
He said he received the call around 9:30 p.m., but let the answering machine pick it up because he and his wife, Tish, who is eight months pregnant, were already comfortable in bed watching TV.
When he later went to check the message, he almost deleted it, but then saw on the caller I.D. that the number was from the District of Columbia, so he listened. And when he did, he was shocked, and said he “almost fell in the floor,” and listened to the message three or four times before telling his wife.
Thomas said he is known for being a bit of a “jokester,” so his wife didn’t believe him until she heard the message for herself.
Thomas was a little worried about being able to take time off from his job in Virginia Tech’s office of Services for Students with Disabilities to travel up to D.C., because next week will be busy, as it is the first week of classes for the spring semester, but luckily, his supervisor gave him the nod of approval.
As for how Thomas became skilled enough in American Sign Language (ASL) to interpret for such an important historic event, it’s because he’s had over 25 years of practice.
Thomas said he is what is called a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), because both of his parents are deaf, so he grew up using ASL and considers it his first language.
“I don’t think I realized that you could be an interpreter professionally until I was a senior at Pulaski County High School,” Thomas said, explaining that there was a deaf student in his art class who had an interpreter.
Thomas struck up a conversation with the interpreter about interpreting as a profession, which he said really turned him on to the idea.
“I had the option to go to some schools and continue my sports, but I decided to follow my interest in sign language, and wanted to be able to do that professionally,” Thomas said.
He entered New River Community College’s interpreter training program and graduated in 2000 with a Career Studies Certificate for Interpreting for the Deaf. 
After graduating, Thomas found a full-time position as an interpreter for Montgomery County Public Schools, where he worked until 2006, until he began working at VT.
On the side, he said he does some video relay interpreting with Sorenson and freelance work with NRCC, Radford University, and local churches. 
Thomas is a “proud 1998 graduate of PCHS” and said that he couldn’t be where he is today without the impact of the teachers and coaches in the Pulaski County School System.
Two coaches who he said were “great role models for me coming through the system” are former basketball coach Pat Burns and former football coach Joel Hicks.
“They instilled in me the hard work and dedication you had to have to be successful not only on the court or field, but in everyday life,” he said.

He also said that Anthony Akers, Pulaski County’s community activities director, has been a great mentor for him. “He always has a knack for steering you the right way, and for that I will always be indebted.”

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PCHS grad to serve as interpreter again

On April 17, 2007, the day after the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, Jerome Thomas, a native of Pulaski County, served as an interpreter for the deaf when President George W. Bush spoke during a ceremony at the university. 
On Feb. 9, 2008, he interpreted for former president Bill Clinton at a political rally on the VT campus. 
 And next Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, Thomas will be interpreting for a third president in just three years when he travels to Washington D.C. to serve as an interpreter at the inaugural ceremony for president-elect Barack Obama.
“It’s something I would have never imagined possible,” he said.
From what he has been told, Thomas will be one among as many as 30 interpreters at the ceremony, with two to three stationed on platforms throughout the crowd so that individuals who are deaf will have the opportunity to see them.
Thomas said he was contacted this past Tuesday about interpreting for the inauguration.
He said he received the call around 9:30 p.m., but let the answering machine pick it up because he and his wife, Tish, who is eight months pregnant, were already comfortable in bed watching TV.
When he later went to check the message, he almost deleted it, but then saw on the caller I.D. that the number was from the District of Columbia, so he listened. And when he did, he was shocked, and said he “almost fell in the floor,” and listened to the message three or four times before telling his wife.
Thomas said he is known for being a bit of a “jokester,” so his wife didn’t believe him until she heard the message for herself.
Thomas was a little worried about being able to take time off from his job in Virginia Tech’s office of Services for Students with Disabilities to travel up to D.C., because next week will be busy, as it is the first week of classes for the spring semester, but luckily, his supervisor gave him the nod of approval.
As for how Thomas became skilled enough in American Sign Language (ASL) to interpret for such an important historic event, it’s because he’s had over 25 years of practice.
Thomas said he is what is called a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), because both of his parents are deaf, so he grew up using ASL and considers it his first language.
“I don’t think I realized that you could be an interpreter professionally until I was a senior at Pulaski County High School,” Thomas said, explaining that there was a deaf student in his art class who had an interpreter.
Thomas struck up a conversation with the interpreter about interpreting as a profession, which he said really turned him on to the idea.
“I had the option to go to some schools and continue my sports, but I decided to follow my interest in sign language, and wanted to be able to do that professionally,” Thomas said.
He entered New River Community College’s interpreter training program and graduated in 2000 with a Career Studies Certificate for Interpreting for the Deaf. 
After graduating, Thomas found a full-time position as an interpreter for Montgomery County Public Schools, where he worked until 2006, until he began working at VT.
On the side, he said he does some video relay interpreting with Sorenson and freelance work with NRCC, Radford University, and local churches. 
Thomas is a “proud 1998 graduate of PCHS” and said that he couldn’t be where he is today without the impact of the teachers and coaches in the Pulaski County School System.
Two coaches who he said were “great role models for me coming through the system” are former basketball coach Pat Burns and former football coach Joel Hicks.
“They instilled in me the hard work and dedication you had to have to be successful not only on the court or field, but in everyday life,” he said.

He also said that Anthony Akers, Pulaski County’s community activities director, has been a great mentor for him. “He always has a knack for steering you the right way, and for that I will always be indebted.”

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