A Glimpse at the Life of a Star Choir Student with A Hearing Impairment

When I was twelve years old, I was diagnosed with a rare tumor titled Cholesteatoma. This horridly invasive tumor fought its way through my ear canal, obliterating all of the bones in my ear. Luckily the medical professionals at Sentara Medical Center in Norfolk Virginia, caught the tumor when it only had one more membrane to pass through before going to my brain.

In the time before the tumor was removed, my education was already affected. Any overexertion of my body could knock something more loose and I risked making my situation even more dire. My physical education classes were confiscated for my own safety. However, the blow that was the hardest was when I was told I there would be a chance I would not be able to continue in my chorus class.

A natural-born singer, I had been in the choir for only one year and I already was facing the biggest dilemma of my young life. For one, the piano and other instruments were so awfully loud that they would cause my ear to hurt. Also, with the tumor affecting my hearing, it became almost impossible for me to accurately match pitch unless I was right on top of the piano to hear the note being played.

After the tumor was removed, I was told that I had lost quite a bit of my hearing. I even had taken to begin learning sign language as a way to help me communicate with others. To me, my entire world was over.

As I moved into high school, things became harder. I would always have to request to sit near the front of the room-almost always right on the first row in order to hear my teachers. Unfortunately, some teachers would already have a seating arrangement, and for the first few classes I was almost always placed at the back of the classroom, meaning that any chance of adequately hearing a teacher would be lost.

As a six-year choir student (I humbly refer to myself as a veteran when I volunteer at my old high school with their choir), it took a lot of adjusting to achieve the things that I did in those years. The year that I had the tumor removed, I was the only one out of our entire choir at Thomas Hunter Middle School who made it to District Choir. This honor is made by audition only. I am sure many can imagine the pure joy that I felt knowing that I had overcome my hearing problem to triumph at this prestigious event.

In high school, District chorus was never considered until my senior year, however, many choir member including myself were invited to multiple Area Choir galas (these did not require entrance auditions). In my Sophomore Year, I attended the Area Choir meeting at Northumberland High School, and achieved a solo (I competed against ten other females). This solo was in a song titled ‘He Never Failed Me Yet’- a gospel song that requires only the strongest of voices. Once again, I had pushed through that disability to achieve my goals.

In my senior year, I not only made District Choir, but also achieved my own solos for our winter and final concerts. However, this fanfare was not without fault. Many days I would have to miss school due to painful migraines and earaches. Also, the ear drops that are required to keep my ear clean and functioning would induce dizziness which would often times throw me into a haze in my classes. On top of this, I sought out my director who tirelessly would allow me to work afterschool to ensure that I had all the parts down.

I have currently been graduated from high school for two years. In this time, I have been achieving my Associates in Criminal Justice from Rappahannock Community College. Even here, I would always select a seat near the front so I would not miss a thing a professor said. Oftentimes, I would request the sound be increased in my distance learning classes and even had to go out of my way to sit beneath speakers in order to hear the professor on the other campus. Now that I have achieved my degree, I will transfer to the beautiful Christopher Newport University. Here I will not only work towards my Masters Degree in Criminology, but I will also be pursuing my one passion: singing.

Even when my disability tries to get the best of me, I never let it. I feel that sharing my story and working towards a goal that may otherwise be impossible if not for my determination makes me not only a worthy candidate of this scholarship, but also a beacon for others like me who struggle every day to reach for the stars with all the courage they have on the line. I have done the same and will continue for the rest of my life. I will never allow my disability to ever dictate who I am or what I can do.

Shannon’s Story
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