Middle school student pledges silence

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— When it comes to doing something to help the relief effort for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Steamboat Springs seventh-grader Adel Akkad is holding his tongue.

Akkad, 13, will attempt to avoid all vocalizing for a week, a formidable stunt for a typically gregarious middle school student.

He is seeking pledges for each hour of his golden silence. The money will be accounted for by Steamboat Springs Middle School bookkeeper Joanne Churchill, a family friend. She will turn the cash over to one of the local banks collecting monies for the 9/11 Fund.

Akkad got the idea for his vow of silence more than a year ago when he and sister Laila were watching a TV show depicting a man who was attempting to remain mute for an entire year in order to raise funds for his community.

"We began shouting at each other that we couldn't do it for a day, and she challenged me to do it for some CDs," Akkad said.

His sister won the original bet, but this time, Akkad is determined to succeed. He's been motivated to do something ever since he spent the night of Sept. 11 tossing in his sleep.

"The first day, I couldn't go to sleep," he said. "I finally went to sleep, like, 2 or 3 in the morning."

Akkad came up with his fund-raising idea and broached the subject with middle school counselor Margi Briggs-Casson without letting his parents, Bob and Wendy, in on his plans.

"He came bursting into my office one morning and said he had a great idea," Briggs-Casson laughed. "He had to check with his teachers and make sure (his vow of silence) wouldn't interfere educationally."

Akkad said his parents embraced his idea enthusiastically. Akkad is a Muslim American. He was born in the United States. His father emigrated here for college. Bob Akkad, a local businessman, was born in Lebanon and grew up in Jordan.

The younger Akkad said his fund-raising effort is not connected to the fact that he is a Muslim American.

In fact, he doesn't think of it in those terms. He said only once since Sept. 11 did someone approach him and make an insensitive remark about his ethnic background.

But he tosses that incident off without betraying any sensitivity.

His friends at school are behind him, and he doesn't think they'll tease him in order to get him to talk this week.

"I don't think people would want to do that, because it's going to such a good cause," Akkad said.

One schoolmate, Connor Walsh, is helping him gather pledges.

Akkad is particularly excited about one woman who pledged $1 for every hour that he can remain quiet.

"If I'm quiet for a week, New York will get more than $100 just from her!" he exclaimed.

Akkad welcomes additional pledges, even after he begins his term of silence.

You can call him at 871-9349, but don't be offended if he doesn't come on the phone Akkad's family members will have to speak for him the rest of the week.

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