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Deaf and hard of hearing students help propel Lakeland Color Guard Team

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Posted at 5:50 AM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 17:23:18-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Lakeland High School Color Guard Team is twirling to the beat of their own drum. Three of the six members on the Sailorettes team are deaf or hard of hearing.

However, they’re letting nothing stand in the way of an award-winning performance. They practice just as hard as any other squad, the only difference is pep talks are spoken and signed.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing because when you watch them on the field in a performance you would never know that half of them are hard of hearing,” said Coach Jayme Conklyn.

Kellie Swanson and D'Ziya Wilson were the first deaf and hard of hearing students to give the flags a try.

“At first I was very nervous and I felt embarrassed and I was worried I’d forget the routine, but as each game went on I would get more confident, my coach would remind me to smile, and I’d just tell myself, ‘smile,’” said Wilson.

Keely Tice saw the success her classmates were having and was inspired to follow their lead.

“I can’t let people put me down anymore, just because I’m deaf. I want to prove people wrong, that I can do it,” said Tice.

These girls aren’t just participating, they're competing and earning superior rankings in their past two competitions.

“It was the biggest moment of my life because I knew I achieved something and I’m proud of it,” said Tice.

For Swanson, she was born to perform, her mom, who is also deaf, was a majorette for Lakeland High School back in 1999.

“That experience always showed her that deaf people can do things,” said Swanson. “It makes me very proud and I wanted to do the same types of things as my mom did as she was growing up.”

The Sailorettes are determined to make the upcoming season their best yet. They are trying to raise money so they can bring interpreters with them to summer camps. A GoFundMe has been created to help them achieve their goal.

“We do have issues with interpreters, there are always extra costs involved and that sometimes poses a challenge to schools and clubs and teams,” said Wilson.