Jamestown Native Valedictorian At School For Deaf

By Gavin Paterniti


The valedictorian of the class of 2013 at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf in Buffalo is a Jamestown native.

Since leaving Jamestown Public Schools to attend St. Mary’s in 2006, Jacob Rhoades has been involved in all aspects of the school’s programming.

“I am happy to take the position of valedictorian and class leader,” he said. “I like what St. Mary’s School for the Deaf has to offer, it was able to lead me to success.”

According to Charles Thoman, Jacob’s school counselor, Jacob has maintained a 90.5 overall average in the midst of a challenging program of Regents-level courses. He has been a consistent honor roll student for the past four years, and earned a Regents diploma at his graduation Thursday.

“Jacob is a highly motivated and enthusiastic student who gets along well with his teachers and peers,” said Thoman.

As far as his academics, Jacob said his favorite subject is English.

“It comes naturally to me, and I enjoy writing (essays) and typing,” he said.

In the realm of extracurriculars, Jacob has not been shy in trying out new things. As vice president of his class, he has participated in activities such as Junior National Association of the Deaf, drama and the academic bowl. He served as editor for the school’s yearbook, and his volunteer work includes organizing fundraisers for SPCA, organizing classrooms at Mission of Mercy and teaching sign language classes at Chautauqua Institution. He also participated in the school’s summer work program, and St. Mary’s varsity basketball and track teams.

This amount of heavy involvement in a variety of areas has earned Jacob the praise of several teachers, including: Diane Gonzalez, journalism teacher; Kirsten Helm, social studies and drama teacher; and Karli McCune, who is also from the Jamestown area.

“Jacob first entered St. Mary’s as a reserved, quiet young middle school boy,” said Gonzalez. “He was overwhelmed and hesitant to engage in conversation or answer questions. He ends his career at SMSD as a respected leader, lead actor and a mature young man. This transformation has been awesome to watch, and is a realistic indicator of the tremendous amount of potential which lies untapped-waiting to be uncovered-as Jacob continues his educational journey.”

“Watching Jacob progress from an extra in his first production at St. Mary’s, ‘Annie,’ to the king in ‘The King and I,’ has been amazing,” said Helm. “In the coming years, as Jacob’s roles change from high school to college student to employee, the progress will be just as amazing.”

“As a member of the Jamestown community, it has been an honor to observe Jacob’s progress throughout his time at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf,” McCune said. “He has made teachers from both St. Mary’s School for the Deaf and Jamestown Public Schools very proud, and will continue to do so as he begins his next endeavor.”

For his academic and extracurricular achievements, Jacob has received several awards and scholarships. They include: the Business First/Independent Health Academic All-Star award, the NYS Education Department Academic Excellence award, the Harry L. Chambers scholarship from the Lion’s Club, the Buffalo Civic Association for the Deaf scholarship, the Larry Barreca scholarship, and the Angelo F. Suozzi Memorial scholarship from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

He is also a two-time recipient of the St. Mary’s School for the Deaf’s Young Man of the Year award for his participation in basketball and track, and according to Karen Spiegelhoff, residential adviser, he won this year’s Senior Young Residential award.

“This is given to a residential student who is responsible, and consistently displays cooperation and respect with his peers and the staff,” she said. “He has been an outstanding leader in our senior boys’ dormitory, and we will miss him next year.”

Now that he has a diploma, Jacob plans to continue his education as an engineering major at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which is part of the Rochester Institute of Technology, in order to further develop his academic and leadership skills.