Signs of Love


Meet Aimee. She gives the words “helping hands” a whole new meaning.

At the end of each Sunday, 17-year-old Aimee Givens’s wrists and fingers ache. She spends a three-hour block of church meetings signing for hearing-impaired teenagers Matt and Leticia Nicholes.

First Aimee attends her meetings from 9:00 A.M. till noon at Fig Garden Ward in the Fresno West California Stake. Then she waits for Matt and his sister, Leticia, to arrive for their meetings at the Sierra Ward, which follows her ward. That means Aimee attends six hours of church each Sunday. And if there’s a youth fireside Sunday evening, Aimee signs for that, too. Little wonder her fingers and hands ache at the end of the day!

Aimee learned to sign when she was ten years old. “I had two deaf friends in elementary school, and I wanted to be able to communicate with them,” she explains. She has taken sign language classes at her high school, the only high school in the Fresno Unified School District that offers them. So when Matt and Leticia moved into the neighboring ward, it seemed only natural to volunteer to help them.

“I really like Matt and TC (Leticia’s nickname). We’ve become good friends,” Aimee says.

“Church used to seem long and boring,” TC says through Aimee. “Now I feel like I get a lot out of it. Before, I learned mostly about church from my mom at home.”

Aimee explains that she stands near the pulpit during sacrament meetings and signs the hymns and the messages of the speakers. She said she has to stand near the speakers so she can watch them and sign at the same time.

Since Matt and TC are both 16 years old (they are not twins; they’re adopted), they attend the same Sunday School class. Aimee attends with them and signs the lessons. After Sunday School, Matt goes to priesthood meeting and Aimee goes to Young Women with TC.

The teenagers also attend early-morning seminary together, but Matt and TC are not in the same class as Aimee. Their mom attends with them and signs for them, but when the classes meet together for special lessons or activities, Aimee does the signing.

Aimee also works as a teacher’s assistant in an English class for hearing-impaired students. “I take a class in summer school each year to free up a period so I can work with these students,” she says. Guess what Aimee’s goal is? You’re right—she wants to be a teacher for the hearing impaired someday.

Matt and TC are the youngest of Karl and Velyn Nicholes’s nine adopted children. Sister Nicholes says she is grateful that Matt and TC have Aimee as a friend. “I love signing. Going to church for six hours every Sunday has been beneficial, too. I really have to listen carefully to what is being said. It’s helped me grow.”

[photo] Photography by The Fresno Bee