I attended Tucker-Maxon for preschool and it set the ultimate base for my future endeavors and success. Tucker allowed me to learn and to play without any limitations whatsoever. The community surrounding Tucker, the teachers, parents, and students were so positive and dedicated to helping each other grow. The compassion and support was unbelievable, and that’s something that I can say has not changed here.
I was born profoundly deaf and had my surgery to get a cochlear implant when I was 2 years old. From this point on until I was in about 3rd grade, I really didn’t conceptualize that fact that I was just a little bit different than everybody else. Upon leaving Tucker I went to Cleveland, Ohio to an elementary school that was set up for both hearing impaired kids and mainstreamed kids. I was still surrounded by a community where people understood my cochlear implant and what I needed in order to succeed, I really didn’t have to accommodate myself. The teachers already knew what I needed as well as my parents. I truly didn’t really have any clear struggles until 3rd grade.
3rd grade is when I entered into the mainstream public school system. Things began to get challenging in that I was the only hearing impaired kid at my elementary school, middle school, and high school alongside my sister. Being the sole individual with a limitation, things began to get difficult and it was harder and harder to keep up. For example, the teachers didn’t fully understand what I needed in order to be successful (reading lips, closed captioning, etc.)
It also began to get difficult since the students around me had never dealt with a deaf individual in their class, it was unique and some of them had a hard time understanding what that thing was on my ear. Social struggles became an issue but I sought out to humor a lot to overcome those issues. I learned that once I could laugh at myself and see this limitation as something that I was blessed with, I could really then succeed.
Middle school was probably one of the most difficult parts in my life, just that it was an awkward stage in that I didn’t exactly know what I needed to be successful and neither did my teachers or peers. It was hard for me to have multiple teachers and classes on a daily basis rather than just one teacher that I got to know very well. Peers around me also was another struggle, I began to find it harder to have a conversation in the cafeteria or between classes in the hallways, and I slowly began to feel lost and isolated.
I really had to stop and re-evaluate things and understand what I need in order to be successful. I recognized that humor again was a great thing to use among my peers and even teachers to get my point across. I began self-advocating to teachers and vocally telling them on a daily basis what I needed and constantly checking in with them to make sure I caught everything.
I began seeking out to other activities and growing up. I went to Honduras with my grandfather on a dental mission and it was a life changing experience. I was able to speak in Spanish to these natives and change their lives, and I have a cochlear implant, it truly doesn’t hold me back at all. I sought out to different sports, I did play competitive soccer and basketball but as the levels increased, communication on the field/courts began to increase and I began to struggle. I sought out to tennis, which I am pursuing to play at Willamette University next year.
My high school career was probably my favorite time of my life. I have made some amazing friends and took some challenging but amazing classes. I am a honors student in the IB program and I participated in DECA which was a business oriented club that constantly focused on presentations and I succeed by placing for nations and even was graced the opportunity to be President this past year. I have also played 4 years of varsity tennis and have made it to state twice.
With all this being said, I leave you with one message today, you truly can do ANYTHING you want to do. I had doctors, teachers, and peers tell me that I would never be able to do this or that, I wouldn’t be able to participate in this or that, but I ignored that. I just sought out to do what I was told that I couldn’t do and do it even better. Whatever your dreams are or your goals, do not, ever let someone tell you that you can’t do it because you have a hearing loss. Also, embrace what you have. This piece of hardware that I have in my head and on my ear is truly a part of me, I have made it into something that I cherish. I really can’t imagine myself not being deaf. Besides, it’s a great conversation starter, “what’s something interesting about yourself?”
I always say, I’m deaf with a big smile on my face and wait for the next brave person to come up with something even more interesting than me, which is usually never the case. So I leave here today saying thank you to Tucker Maxon for allowing me to be who I wanted to be here and for the ultimate support and love. I really wouldn’t be here today without this program. And also to the students and parents, whatever you want to achieve, achieve it. This cochlear implant or hearing aids are designed to help you not to hold you back in anyway. Love your parents, love your life, and love yourself.