Jonesboro senior earns crown as Miss Deaf Georgia

By Trina Trice

A Jonesboro High School has new kind of royalty among its student body.

Senior Kaitlin Pate was recently crowned 2003-2004 Miss Deaf Georgia.

The pageant was Pate's first.

"One of my reasons was that it was an experience I wanted to have," she said. "I wanted to participate more in the deaf community."

Pate, who has grown up deaf, received a lot of support from her parents who are both Clayton County teachers.

Kathy Pate teaches at Suder Elementary School and Kent Pate teaches at Roberts Middle School.

"My husband and I, when we learned that she was deaf, we decided we weren't going to hold her back," Pate's mother said. "We never treated her like there was anything wrong.

"I'm not really a pageant person, so I had some reservations," Pate's mother said. "After I thought about it, we decided to let her go through with it. As soon as we met all the wonderful people?we're really glad we let her go through with it. It was wonderful."

To compete in the pageant, Pate had to develop a "platform" of beliefs or goals to express.

Pate chose confidence as her topic.

"I talked about confidence, not just in myself, but the deaf community (too)," she said.

For her talent she signed and danced to the song "Never Had a Friend Like Me" from the animated film "Aladdin."

"Everyone was excited," Pate said.

Pate wore a floor-length gown for the eveningwear competition.

Cathy Belew, deaf interpreter at Jonesboro High School, helped Pate prepare for the pageant. Belew knows why she won.

"The deaf community when they met her, they liked her attitude," Belew said.

Now that she earned the title, Pate plans to recruit young deaf people and encourage them to participate more in the deaf community.

"I'll make appearances at deaf gatherings, getting deaf awareness out there," she said. "Before I came to (Jonesboro High School), I didn't know that we had all of this out there. I don't want the same thing to happen to (another young person)."

Belew will go on to compete for the national pageant in July in Kansas City, Mo.