Hearing-impaired teen wins scholarship

Kayla Raquel
Kayla Raquel


A North Arlington teenager who overcame profound hearing loss to graduate high school as an honor roll student and earn admission to the freshman class at Gallaudet University has also won a prestigious college scholarship from the Hearing Loss Association of New Jersey (HLAA-NJ).

Kayla Raquel, who resides in this borough, recently received her diploma from Mountain Lakes High School, which she attended due to its comprehensive academic program designed specifically for hearing-impaired students in cooperation with the Lake Drive Foundation.

At Gallaudet, located in Washington, D.C., Kayla plans to study psychology and eventually pursue her doctorate so she can go on to serve as a counselor or social worker to assist others who are deaf or hard of hearing.

In announcing the scholarship, HLAA-NJ President Linda Schaab said, “We are proud to honor Kayla’s achievements. Diagnosed with profound hearing loss at 15 months of age, and aided by two cochlear implants and knowledge of sign language, she went on to graduate from Mountain Lakes H.S. with a cumulative GPA of 3.673 and impressive grades that earned her a place on her school’s honor roll for four years.”

Schaab noted that Kayla also served as president of the school’s National Association of the Deaf chapter and won a Northeast Deaf Academic Bowl Sportsmanship Award.

“It is difficult for people with normal hearing to realize how hard it is to do what Kayla has succeeded in doing,” Schaab said. “But nothing can make hearing loss go away, or give her what would be regarded as ‘normal’ hearing.

“From the classroom to her extracurricular activities, Kayla has mastered her daily struggle to understand teachers, classmates and others to overcome the stigma that is too often attached to serious hearing loss.”

Said Kayla, “My hearing loss has impacted personal relationships in my life, and I’ve had to dedicate myself to learning and listening to reach my potential.

“After about age 11, when my mother — whose first language was Spanish — became my sole guardian, communications between us were frequently more difficult, even though she was learning both sign language and English, than if we had shared a common language.”

Regardless, she never lost sight of her goals.

Kayla noted that her cochlear implants have helped her “become the more confident person that I am today. I’m able to communicate freely with hearing people.”

Regarding her choice of psychology as her college major, Kayla said, “I have insights about pain and hardship, but have successfully overcome the challenges in my life. Receiving this scholarship will help me to focus on accomplishing my goal of helping others to triumphantly achieve their dreams.”

HLAA-NJ works to create awareness of hearing loss issues in New Jersey. It is dedicated to developing a statewide network to address outreach, advocacy, legislative and equal access issues that impact people with hearing loss.

For information about HLAA-NJ, the New Jersey state affiliate of the Hearing Loss Association of America, contact Schaab at info@  hearingloss-nj.org or visit either www.hearingloss- nj.org or www.hearingloss.org.

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