Twenty-year-old Georgia Piedmont Technical College welding student Eddie Beasley of Lithonia looks like any other college student. He has an easy smile, a laid-back attitude, and a good group of friends. It’s not until you see him signing back and forth with his peers and GPTC interpreters that you realize something is a little different. Eddie has been deaf since birth and in order for him to understand what’s going on in class and in his college environment, he and the other half dozen or so deaf students at GPTC are followed around by a loving group of interpreters who call themselves “a gaggle of geese.”
Interpreter Suzanne Holtz explains the gaggle moniker with a laugh. “We work together to establish a base schedule and then go where needed. Every day is different and we’re all friends off the clock.”
Holtz has been working with GPTC and area deaf students for 30ish years and relishes seeing her students – past and present – thrive.
“I love it here. Seeing kids I worked with have kids of their own, and then grandkids, and providing for their families? It’s just so rewarding,” she said.
The gaggle, who happen to all be women, take turns every day accompanying deaf students to their classes, labs, and campus events so they can interact and learn like everyone else.
The deaf students primarily come from the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf – a K-12 public school that’s within walking distance of Georgia Piedmont’s Clarkston campus. Beasley, like many of his peers, took dual enrollment classes while at AASD. It was then when he discovered a love for welding.
Through his interpreter Alejandra Alvarez-Gavieres, he said with a grin, “My favorite part of welding is using the MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welder. I like going through metal on metal.”
Eddie Beasley graduated from the AASD in 2020 and has been enrolled at Georgia Piedmont ever since, with hopes of finishing his welding diploma in 2023.
“I’d like to go to the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York to continue my education,” he said. “Then, I’ll come back to Georgia and maybe even re-enroll at Georgia Piedmont.”
Eddie Beasley is confident about his future, saying he knows he’ll get a job as a welder and maybe later look at other career options. Meanwhile, with the help of his tribe of friends and a self-proclaimed gaggle of geese, Eddie is making memories and learning a living at GPTC.