Allen Anthony Henderson, who lives in Memphis, is a 2020 graduate of the Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville. (Courtesy photo)

As a 2020 high school graduate, Allen Anthony Henderson can attest to the need to face challenges, embrace a reasoned path forward and to get moving right through the finish line. And, he knew that long before COVID-19 became known as a pandemic-wide public emergency.

Henderson is deaf. For six years, he traveled weekly from Memphis to Knoxville to attend the Tennessee School for the Deaf. His graduation was celebrated outside Southbrook Mall thanks to his support network, which includes a Raines Rd. Police Precinct officer, who helped make the celebration possible.

Allen Anthony Henderson celebrates with his mother, Tonya Host. (Courtesy photo)

Reflecting on her son’s multi-year, back-and-forth academic travels, Tonya Host said it was him proving that, “Momma, I know I’m deaf, but I know how to survive in this world and be independent.”

And her response: “Yes, I see that son. Yes, I see that now. I’m so happy and proud of you. Congratulations 2020 graduate.”

Backtracking from his experience with the Tennessee School for the Deaf, Henderson attended Memphis Oral School for the Deaf, White Station Elementary and Sea Isle Elementary. Host learned of the Tennessee School for the Deaf when he graduated from fifth grade.

The thought of her son being away from home moved Host to tears, often.

“But I prayed and asked God to help me. Yes, it was hard for me, but it made Allen become the man that he is today. …Sometimes we can hinder our children – especially with disabilities – because we are scared, but we have to let them venture out on their own to understand how to survive without us.”

Going forward, Henderson has aligned his post-graduation goal with a heartfelt desire: to become a chef and own a restaurant for the deaf.


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