Portland High School deaf student makes mascot history

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PORTLAND — Being deaf doesn’t prevent Kameron King, the new Portland High School mascot, from doing his job of keeping the crowd engaged and cheering for the home team.

This fall King appeared as the Bulldog at all of the school’s home football games. He plans on making as many appearances as he can during basketball season, which started last week.

King, a freshman, applied to become the mascot after the call went out from the Athletic Department seeking students interested in wearing the Bulldog costume and inspiring school spirit.

He’s the first deaf mascot in the school’s history and attends Portland High School as part of a collaboration between the Portland Public Schools and the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Falmouth.

“If I didn’t do it,” King said recently, “we might have had no mascot, and it’s important that we have one here at the home of the Bulldogs.”

King is profoundly deaf, but with the help of a hearing aid, reading lips and an interpreter, he is able to communicate fairly well.

While he doesn’t use an interpreter in his appearances as the Bulldog, he gets help from the cheerleaders and the cheering coach, who point out kids who want to give him a high five or help King follow the action on the field.

King, who is a football fan, said what he’s most enjoyed is getting the crowd involved and offering support to help the team play harder.

“I give a lot of high fives,” he said. “And if there is a bad call I might get down on my knees and hit the ground. I also react if the other team scores. It’s a lot of fun, acting and keeping the crowd engaged.”

King said he was nervous the first couple times he put on the Bulldog costume, but it helps that people can’t see his face, so he’s anonymous.

In addition to being the Bulldog, King participated in outdoor track this fall and is  on the indoor track team this winter. He may also join the school robotics club.

King could hear as well as any child when he was born, but when he was only 3 to 4 months old he became completely deaf in his right ear. He has partial hearing in his left ear, where he wears the hearing aid.

He has both deaf and hearing friends, and an interpreter accompanies him to most of his classes. He also works with a speech therapist on a process called cueing, which not only allows him to better form spoken words, but also to better understand what people are saying to him.

While King speaks, he also uses sign language to communicate; his whole family signs. He enjoys movies, and can even hear them in a movie theater if he sits next to the speakers. However, King said it’s easier for him to watch movies with subtitles.

He is excited about the new Star Wars movie, “Rogue One,” but said his favorite movies include the “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” series by Pixar Animation Studios.

As a freshman, King is still unsure of what he might want to do after high school and said, for now, he is happy just being a regular teenager.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter @KirishCollins.

Kameron King in his Portland High School Bulldog costume.

Kameron King, a freshman at Portland High School, is the first deaf student to take on the roll of school mascot.

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