Cesar Torres, 15, has been deaf since birth.
Yet he is a good student and will be the nose guard for the Lely High junior varsity football team this fall.
He will be a sophomore then and is looking forward to playing for the Trojans.
During spring camp, he works out with the varsity and listens, or watches intently as Jody Belcher “signs” what the coaches or players are saying to Cesar.
Belcher is the owner of Associated Interpreters for the Deaf of Punta Gorda. He and employee Jeremy Batten share time with Cesar every school day, at football practice, football games and extra-curricular activities.
“Cesar is a hard worker, an excellent student, just a pleasure to work with,” Belcher says.
Cesar was officially diagnosed at 4 years old. He credits his Golden Gate third-grade teacher, Susan Outlaw, with helping move him forward educationally through sign language.
He also credits his motherm Jenny Suarez.
Torres’ teacher helped him adapt, while his mother has been very supportive of whatever Cesar tries. She makes sure he gets the services he needs, Cesar says through sign.
Cesar’s 11-year-old brother, Steven, also is deaf.
“With an interpreter I can be like other students,” he signs. “He (Belcher and Batten) helps me learn new plays that I need to be on the defensive team. It is very important for me.”
Varsity head coach Steve Pricer lauds the efforts made by the company and Cesar.
“I think it is very admirable towant to give any kid a chance to play football and do better in school,” he says. “We know that these accomdoations help him and we are very happy with him. He is a great kid and works hard. You wouldn’t know that he is hearing-impaired. He practices like everyone else and is part of the team like everyone else.”
Cesar signs in English, the only language taught by those at Associated Interpreters for the Deaf. The school district pays the cost through a Disabled Americans Act grant.
Like school, football is a priority to Cesar.
“I love it,” he signs.