“A deaf child will never be able to play an instrument as complex as the violin.” These words were not uncommon to my deaf ears. And there began my determination to defy the odds – I just did not know it yet.

During the fall of my first yearin high school as I rushed to class, a fellow student tapped me on my shoulder and said, “I think Mr. Carter is calling you.” “Mr. Carter? THE Mr. Carter?” I wondered. “Why would he call me? How does he even know my name?” Suddenly I found myself face-to-face with the Director of Musical Theater. As though not shocked enough by his mere attempt to address me, I was nearly unable to respond when he abruptly asked, “Celine, you play the violin, right?” Reluctantly, I answered a weak “yes.” And then it came – his next question like an arrow directed toward me. “I need a violinist to play in our upcoming performance…” I don’t think I let him finish. I blurted out, “No!” There was an awkward moment of silence which seemed like eternity. His face looked as surprised by my response as mine must have looked by his question. “Well, what I meant was…” I tried to redeem myself and kindly declined.

No, I did not commit a crime, although I was later told that saying “No” to Mr. Carter was almost as bad.

That evening, as I reflected on my rude response to Mr. Carter, I suddenly had a flashback to the last ten years of my life where I dedicated most of my time to daily orchestra rehearsals, countless private lessons and performances for our families and community. Was my fear of Mr. Carter’s prestigious reputation and high expectations worth throwing my past away? Why was I so eager to decline an amazing opportunity?

Yes, this was WAY out of my comfort zone. This was no longer middle school, but a high school known for its musical productions. My confidence, my willingness to step up, my ability to work hard and persevere were all being challenged.

After reconsideration, I decided to accept Mr. Carter’s offer. With Opening Night only a month away, I struggled to balance long rehearsals, rigorous AP coursework, and volleyball practice. My nerves heightened as I was played alongside three confident and talented violinists – all juniors and seniors. “Imaginary Invalid” was my claim to fame as far as high school musical theater goes, but more importantly, it was a huge personal accomplishment, what some never thought possible. While I do not wish to pursue a musical career, I have received the gift of music, and for that, I am grateful.

Defying the odds? Check.

At three months old, hearing aids brought sound to a silent world. It was the dedicated professionals –audiologists, speech therapists, and teachers – who helped lay the foundation for my future success.

During my early years, I attended a special school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Once I was ready to attend a mainstream school, I was forced to adapt to new situations. For the next eight years, as the only student with a hearing impairment, I had to learn self-advocacy skills– not always so easy.  Classrooms were not conducive to a listening environment for children with hearing problems; I did not have the support staff that I had relied on to continually feed in language, to correct my speech, or to repeat when I did not understand.

Since the teachers at my mainstream school were not trained to work with deaf students, they became intrigued about my world. I was encouraged to educate others through a science project. As a result of my presentation, my teachers and peers gained a better understanding of what it may be like living with a severe hearing impairment. As a result, I unexpectedly received first place at the District Finals at Biola University!

I have come a long way since my early school years. Through sports, student government, and mentorship programs, I was beginning to feel more comfortable during high school. I took on leadership roles, and through this I learned of one particular freshman who also suffered from a severe hearing loss. Since I felt I was the only person at our high school who could relate to this young man, this situation brought me to the realization that the same disability that held back my educational and social skills in the early years of my life, can now be used as inspiration to someone who is struggling with the same complications.  I have learned not to let my hearing loss be the reason for my failure, but instead a reason for my success.

Although I still face challenges and obstacles today, I have been given the tools to succeed. I owe this to the professionals throughout my education who believed in me and cared to make a difference. I am a freshman in college now, much like every other college freshman, who just happens to have a hearing loss. As either a Speech Pathologist or Audiologist,  I aspire to help others like me with passion!

Celine’s Story
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