A signing star: Lakeland junior honored by WAVY news

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Last September, Lakeland High sign language instructor Anita Fisher reached into her school mailbox and took out a form from WAVY TV-10 News.

It told her about the show’s Hampton Roads Young Achievers program, which each week honors an area youth who has demonstrated excellent character, community involvement and a commitment to their personal best.

Fisher knew just the student.

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&uot;Amy came straight to my mind,&uot; she said of Amy Brinkley, a junior Lady Cavalier and three-year student of Fisher. &uot;She’s always helping people. When she sees a need, she jumps in and does it.&uot;

She set about listing Brinkley’s accomplishments, which nearly filled up the page. She wrote out a statement explaining exactly why she felt Brinkley was worthy. Fisher called her student, who wrote her own description of why she gives so much to so many.

For months, no one heard a thing. Then, in early February, the phone rang in principal Thomas Whitley’s office. Seconds later, he learned that Brinkley had been picked to be honored.

&uot;It was certainly a pleasant surprise,&uot; Whitley said. &uot;I wasn’t surprised that Amy was being recognized, I just didn’t know an application had been made. We encourage teachers to make applications such as these, because there’s a number of very good students here worthy of recognition.

&uot;That was a good day. Amy was excited, and I was excited for her. She’s very deserving.&uot;

Quite a few people would agree.

Perhaps the ones for whom Brinkley poured soup at the Salvation Army at Christmas 2003. Maybe the children that she gifted with Christmas presents from the Toys for Tots program the past two Christmases. Or those to whom she’s brought meals from canned food drives every year since 2001, and residents of the Autumn Care nursing home, where Brinkley handed out valentines last February.

Several of her classmates might have something to say as well; Brinkley’s a member of the BETA, CHROME and Key Clubs, the Forensic and Academic teams and the drama club’s stage crew.

And for the past three years, Brinkley, who got her news segment spotlight in mid-February, has been teaching those who can’t always form words to speak their mind.

&uot;My dad has a hearing loss that he’s had since he was five,&uot; she said, &uot; and my brother had ear problems that prevented him from speaking until he was two. When I was in eighth grade, I found out that Lakeland had a sign language program, and I wanted to try it. Hearing deteriorates anyway, so I’m afraid that my dad might go deaf when he’s about 60 and won’t have any way to communicate.&uot;

Her skills also come in handy when she’s babysitting for a seven-year-old boy with apraxia, which interferes with a person’s ability to produce purposeful, skilled movements as the result of brain damage.

&uot;(Sign language) helps with his frustration,&uot; she said. &uot;When he gets frustrated, he doesn’t always have time to think about what he wants to say, so he signs it.&uot;

Next year, she hopes that her school will install a level four sign language class (she’s now in level three), which it has never had. After that, she’d like to attend James Madison University on her way to becoming a speech pathologist; Brinkley’s 4.2 grade point average ranks her eighth in the junior class.

&uot;Community service helped me become a more responsible citizen, because it gave me an understanding of individuals who had different experiences and backgrounds,&uot; she said in her application essay. &uot;It also showed me the great amount of goodness that can come from just a little compassion.

&uot;It feels good to volunteer,&uot; she said. &uot;You can do something for somebody else and not for yourself, and it feels good to do that.&uot;