I had watched my brother go to school for five long years before it was finally my turn!  Kindergarten was a brand new world and I couldn’t wait to be a part of all of that.  We all lined up for yet another fun-filled activity; this time it was a hearing test.  I heard all the bells and beeps, and raised my hand every time I heard those sounds.  The test lady handed me a letter to take home to my mom, and I couldn’t have been prouder!  When my mom read the letter, though, she wasn’t smiling.  She gave me a hug…and this scenario occurred every year until I was in high school.

I always did well in school academically, and socially, my mom always referred to me as her “social butterfly”.  Something happened, however, as I started my sophomore year of high school.  My caseload was tough:  Algebra, World Cultures, French, Biology, Literature and Composition, Physical Education, Band, Choir and Jazz Band.  My grades really started to slip but I felt like I was working harder than I ever had in school.  Then one day in English class, the teacher said “Hand in your homework”…but I hadn’t heard the teacher give a homework assignment the day before.  I started noticing, THAT DAY, that I wasn’t hearing my friend’s voices as well, that I was straining to hear the teachers if I was in the middle or back of the classroom, and that unless I spoke louder than usual, I couldn’t hear myself.  THAT DAY, I told my mom I didn’t think I was hearing things well, and THAT DAY my mom called to make an appointment with the audiologist.

The hearing test started as many others I’d experienced through the years, but then the test became more complicated.  I began to realize this may be more than just not being able to hear if I’m not sitting in the front of the room.  Sure enough, the verdict:  moderate hearing loss.  And then the audiologist said the word “progressive” and I looked at my mom with a mixture of astonishment, horror and suspicion.  “Progressive” – the dictionary defines it as favoring or advocating change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, so that didn’t seem so bad.  In my mind, that meant my hearing loss would stay as it was or improve.  It wasn’t until we were in the room with the audiologist and she started explaining the test results that I realized the real meaning of that word.  All I could think about was my dream – that dream I’ve had since the fifth grade – my dream of becoming a Young American, and was it now only a pipe dream.  They Young Americans sing, dance, play instruments, and act…all of the things I love to do, but now I can’t hear, so will I be able to do all of those things?  All of this was swirling around in my head while my mom and the doctor talked about decibels, speech range, high and low frequencies, and hearing aids.  “Sarah, Sarah”, the doctor called.  I realized I had not been paying any attention to them until I heard the doctor calling my name.  She wanted to try out a pair of hearing aids on me to see how I responded.  I was still having difficulty concentrating on what was happening…until she put the hearing aids on me and turned them on.  All of the swirling in my head stopped instantly.  My eyes widened, my mouth gaped open, and all that came out was “WOW”!  I could hear!!  I could hear the traffic outside of the office window, I could hear the receptionist’s phone ringing, I could hear the doctor’s coat rustling against her clothing…I could hear things I didn’t even know made sounds!  It was at that very moment that my head became crystal clear, and I knew that the only thing that would keep me from my dream was to stop working hard.  My path may be a bit bumpier, but that builds character.  I may have to practice more than the average person, but practice only makes you better.

I have worn my hearing aids every day since I received my first set in January of my sophomore year of high school, and I have not needed any reminders from anyone to wear them.  They have become a part of me.  Some kids in school have asked what they are, and I just explain what they do to help me.  Everyone has been supportive, and the teachers listen when I explain something I may need, like a new seat in the classroom or for them to face me when they are talking because of the extra cues I get from their mouths and faces.  I became part of the Northeast Regional Program for the deaf and hard of hearing during my sophomore year, and have participated in many outings throughout the state with o other deaf and hard of hearing students my age. I am still playing my saxophone, and have played in the pit percussion for marching band the last two years.  I have had many solos with my saxophone in jazz band, and I am still singing in the choir.  I have participated in more than a dozen Young American workshops over the last seven years, including one workshop the Young Americans put on for all of the deaf and hard of hearing students in the state of Nebraska.  I was even interviewed for the local news, and during that interview I told the reporter, “In the Young Americans, there are no restrictions, and everyone can be exactly who they are meant to be.  The Young Americans make us all feel free to fly.” I am free to fly, to be anything I want to be, and I am currently waiting to hear if I made it into the Young Americans.  I will achieve my dream!!

When I was eight years old, my two-parent life became a single parent household, with my mom left to raise two children on her own.  College seemed impossible, but mom always told us to work hard and we could achieve anything.  I’ve worked hard in school, keeping mostly A’s and B’s during high school while participating in many after-school activities.  Since fifth grade, I’ve dreamed of attending a performing arts college in California.  This scholarship could turn that dream into a reality – into an achievement and affirmation that hard work CAN get you to your dreams.

Sarah’s Story
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