When Kamron King puts on the bulldog suit, the fans go nuts.
Kamron knows how to work the crowd like a pro. He just can’t always hear them cheering.
Kamron, a 15-year-old freshman at Portland High School in Portland, Maine, landed the job as mascot for his bold, original moves on the court. He knows when to take a pratfall. He knows when a kid in the crowd needs a high-five.
He’s also making Portland High history. He’s the first mascot at the school to have been born with profound hearing loss.
Kamron says that his hearing loss doesn’t interfere with his skill at pumping up the crowds at local football and basketball games. But his parents fill in the details. In fact, Kamron has had to do a little extra work to embody the Bulldog, which requires donning a big, hot, heavy suit that obscures his eyesight. Kamron’s dad told the “AP” that Kamron struggled with balance as a kid. He had to practice on his coordination a lot to deliver his highly acrobatic performances to the screaming fans of the Portland High Bulldogs.
That’s where the studying came into play.
“I watched a couple videos of people being mascots, acting funny and whatnot,” Kamron told an “AP” reporter, who communicated through an American Sign Language interpreter. “I wondered if it was something I could do, and be the first hard-of-hearing mascot of Portland High School.”
The answer, of course, was a resounding “yes.”
Today, you can find Kamron on the sidelines at Portland High basketball games. He dances with the cheerleaders, and if the occasional spirit squadder has to sometimes tap him on the shoulder to direct the stream of his copious high-fiving, well, that’s a small price to pay for his enthusiasm.
You might also see him at pep rallies and other high school spirit events. Wherever there’s a Portland High crowd to be warmed up, you’ll see Kamron, and it’s always worth it.
Before he matriculated to this public high school, Kamron attended the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
There, he perfected his English literacy and ASL skills through a combination of two teaching philosophies: Whole Language and Dual Language.
Under the Dual Language philosophy, educators assign equal value to ASL and written/spoken English. For many of their students, ASL is a first language, and they are encouraged to use whatever combination of ASL and spoken English best suits them.
The Whole Language system seeks to build associations, or a “scaffolding,” around different subjects and learning schema. In that sense, it leads naturally into all other academic disciplines, such as the ones Kamron is now encountering in high school.
Though he was born with profound hearing loss, Kamron does have some hearing in his left ear. He wears a hearing aid, which helps with his interactions with the hearing world.
The upshot of all this technical stuff is that Kamron is having a blast, both on court and off.
When he’s not embodying the Bulldog, you’ll find Kamron competing in his own sport, winter track.
No matter what Kamron’s doing, odds are he’ll have you in stitches.
“His nickname’s ‘Kam the Ham’ for a reason,” Kamron’s mother, Debi, said. “He’s quite the entertainer, and he always keeps us laughing.”
As for his decision to put on the Bulldog costume, Kamron told the “AP” that he felt “inspired” to wear the mask. Mascots aren’t made; they’re born. And Kamron has school spirit in his blood.
“I became the PHS mascot because I enjoy supporting Portland sports teams and want people to know that that Portland Bulldogs are strong,” Kamron said in a Portland Public Schools press release. “I feel inspired when I put on the Bulldog mascot [costume], even though it’s very hot!”
So does Kamron think that his hearing loss places any extra burden on his job as mascot? By now, you should be able to guess the answer.
“I really don’t see this responsibility as more of a challenge for me because I’m deaf,” Kamron said. “The mascot doesn’t talk. Deaf people are very visual. I use my eyes and my energy and get the crowd fired up.”
Anyway, Kamron is as proud to represent the Deaf community as he is to support his school.
“I love being the first deaf mascot for Portland High School,” he said.