Lynne Castles ’14 has served as the sign language interpreter for James Kearney ’14 since he was in the 8th grade. God put them together, Castles says, so it was fitting they graduated together.
For most college students, graduation is the most anticipated day imaginable. Their work, sweat, and tears have finally paid off in the form of a diploma and the recognition in front of their family and friends. But senior James Kearney has had to work even harder than most. Kearney is deaf, and together with his sign language interpreter, Lynne Castles, has conquered the college classroom.
Kearney and Castles met 10 years ago, on Sept. 13, 2004, when Kearney was in the eighth grade at Terrell Lane Middle School, in Louisburg, North Carolina. “He was in a special ed room that was like the catch all,” Castles said, still upset about the situation even a decade later. “There were deaf kids, there were blind kids, anybody who didn’t fit the regular classroom. He was being really disregarded.”
In a way, Kearney was a blessing for Castles as well. Castles had previously worked at Campbell University as a sign language interpreter, but her previous student had graduated. After Kearney’s graduation from high school, Castles had the chance to return to Campbell once more, this time working with Kearney. She accompanied him to class and translated the lectures into sign language for him.
When he enrolled at Campbell five years ago, Castles continued on as his interpreter. As she went from course to course with him, she decided to finish her own college degree requirements. She had been a student at a community college in Orlando, Florida, in 1986, and taken courses here and there over the past 20 years. The two walked the graduation stage together May 10 – he earning an undergraduate degree in education and she in history. “We believe God put us together,” Castles said.
Attending Campbell became a dream for Kearney around tenth grade. “It was a different life than what I expected,” he said. “This place is nothing like high school. It’s been better. I am way more comfortable than I was in high school. Campbell has changed and improved my life.”
Kearney plans to continue his studies if he is accepted into Campbell’s School of Education’s graduate program in counseling. If all goes well, he will attend graduate classes at night and work at the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf in Wilson, N.C. “I want to help children,” he said. “I want to learn about the world and how to help them get along in the world.”
Castles is looking to serve as an interpreter for another student and will continue to work with Kearney if he attends Campbell’s School of Education. —Rachel Davis