The staff at Grover Cleveland School planned a special sendoff for an Erie hockey player selected for the U.S. National Deaf Ice Hockey Team. Miles Gates works at the school as an aide and interpreter for the Erie School District's hearing support program.
School officials say Miles is someone the hearing impaired students can relate to, because he's deaf too. The students were interested to learn that "Mr. Miles" is heading to the 2013 World Deaf Championships in Finland.
Barb Duchini, who runs the hearing support program at Grover Cleveland organized the surprise sendoff in the school auditorium for 23-year old Miles Gates. The students waved their hands in the air, that's how people who are deaf or hearing impaired clap.
Duchini was Miles' first teacher and her husband who is deaf and a hockey player and coach got Miles involved in the Stan Mikita Hearing Impaired Hockey Camp in Chicago.
"I think of myself as just like everyone else," said Miles. "I do have one little set back, I can't hear that well, but I don't let that affect me, I keep my game going as best I can. I've got to work harder, I've got to focus more, but that's all part of the game. The more focus you have, the better you're going to do in the game."
"The rest of us that are here on staff are all hearing, so it's great that the deaf and hard of hearing kids have a role model like Miles," said Duchini. Although Miles studied graphic design while playing his college hockey in Rochester, Duchini hopes he'll go back to school and prepare to take over the Erie School District's hearing impaired program when she retires. "I've got my retirement date all picked out in about five years," said Duchini, "get what you need to take over, because I know you'll keep the program running and do a really good job at it."
Miles was surprised by all the attention today. He says he's working hard to be prepared for the world championship game in Finland in April. He hopes to bring home the gold and to keep playing hockey as long as he can. His work in the Erie School District is fulfilling too. "I love it, I mean the kids are a great group," said Miles. "A lot of them have a lot of talent that we don't know about, sometimes it takes encouragement for them to build it up and make sure they can do it. I think it's good for them to have a younger role model like myself, because that way they can have a better understanding that they can do it."