ЦЕНТР ЛЕОНГАРД

LEONGARD Center

Testimonials

Editor: Dmitry Kashlev, age 19, and Megan Vaporean, also age 19, are two of the 2003-2004 recipients ofAG Bell College Scholarship Awards. Dmitty is a graduate of Bronx High School of Science in The Bronx, NY, and currently attends Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Megan, originally from St. Loufs, MO, is currently enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. As part of the scholarship application process, students are required to submit an essay on «how [they] live with [their] hearing loss and/or [their] philosophy as a person with hearing loss.» We have featured two of these impressive essays below, which will both amaze and inspire you.

I am an Intel Semifinalist

“Is this true? I am an Intel Semifinalist?» I cried out as I looked at the list of semifinalists on the Internet. I could not believe this, but it was not a mistake. My research project in computer science that I worked on for the entire summer received this high mark. My hard work and determination finally paid off.

I was born with a severe-to-profound hearing loss. This disability made my life difficult but did not prevent me from becoming what I am Loday — a good student with ambitious goals. Almost everything in life interests me. I like science and math, and I am interested in computer technology. My hearing loss has never been a limitation for me, but rather an obstacle that I had to overcome. It was always important for me to do well at school. If I did not understand material in class, I would use my free time at home to catch up by reading up on the topic. I had to get more information than what was presented in class to fill in the gaps. Very often I was captivated by the topic and went beyond the scope of material discussed in class and indulged in new ideas. In order to do as well as other students, I had to stretch myself. This made me an independent thinker capable of handling an ocean of information. I learned to be assertive and ask for what I needed. Responding to the challenges of my hearing loss made me a strong person capable of solving any problem. It taught me to persevere and to never give up.

I attended elementary and middle school [in the United States] with instruction in Russian. Russian is my native language and my parents and I were not sure whether I would ever be able to do well at a school with English instruction. While in middle school, I learned about the Bronx High School of Science, a school with a rigorous curriculum in math, science, and technology. It became my dream to be a Bronx Science student. Admission to Bronx Science is very competitive: to get in, students have to take an entrance examination. My motivation to become a «Sciencite» was so strong that I studied hard for the exam and, despite of my limited English, I scored high enough to get into the school.

On my first day at Bronx Science, I felt very nervous because I was not sure whether I would be able to understand the other students and the teachers, especially with my limited knowledge of English. It was hard in the beginning, but I worked enthusiastically to learn to understand other people. With time, I felt more and more comfortable with my new teachers and friends and I could communicate with almost no problem. One might say I was not doing well in some classes, particularly in English and History. However, getting an 8096 in English after my first semester at this highly competitive school was a tremendous achievement, especially for someone who is not a native English speaker. It was a challenge and I responded to it by working hard. The result was a 100% in English for the second semester of my sophomore year and a 97% for Juniors Honors English. When I was a little freshman, I could have never imagined doing so well in English. Stretching myself paid off.

When I tried out for the school’s varsity swim team, the athletic director did not think I would make it because I could not hear the starting signal for the race. However, my inability to hear without hearing aids did not stop me. I worked out a plan with my coach so that he or one or my teammates would tap me on the foot the moment the referee shoots his gun. I became a competitive swimmer and even came in first place in the 500-yard freestyle in the New York City Public Schools Athletic League Championship this year. I have been on the Bronx Science swim team for 4 years.

In a way, my hearing loss helped me become the person I am today. I learned to never give up, to work hard, to be assertive, and to find ways to solve problems life poses to me. I became confident in myself. A scared little freshman with limited knowledge of English became a strong and successful Intel semifinalist.

Some people fight hard to change their lives thus deserving our respect. Other people work hard to improve the lives of others and these earn our admiration. One of such people is a Russian deaf educator, Dr. Emily Leongard.

I was born profoundly deaf. My parents, who lived in Russia at mat time, had to decide how to raise me. They wanted me to get a good education and be able to choose a profession; they wished me to grow as an independent adult who can communicate with the world. Fortunately they met a woman who opened me a door to the world of hearing people. It was Dr. Emily Leongard.

Traditional way of deaf education, was to teach every hearing impaired child to sign. Deaf children had to attend special schools, where they were taught to communicate with others using sign language. Poor oral skills locked them out of the hearing world. Most deaf educators believed it was impossible to teach a deaf child to speak weU enough to become a part of hearing society. They insisted that all deaf people should know sign language, should belong to the «deaf culture» and be a part of the deaf community. Many educators thought that teaching deaf children oral language would make them unhappy.

Emily Leongard was one of pioneers in Russian deaf education who challenged this seemingly firm theory. She graduated from Teachers’ College in Moscow and earned her PhD in developing methods of oral education for deaf children. Her goal was to work out a system that would enable children like me to evolve as strong adults who use speech rather than sign language to communicate with others. Emily Leongard encouraged parents to do special exercises with their deaf children to develop their speech and improve hearing. Dr. Leongard strongly believed in the success of her methods. With a small group of enthusiasts she organized classes for deaf students that used her system in different schools in Moscow. She trained teachers of the deaf and speech pathologists so they could apply her method. With co-workers, Dr. Leongard made observations in such classes and analyzed results in order to improve her system. She established a center of oral education in Moscow where parents of deaf children from all over the country could come for a consultation. Dr. Leongard and a small group of supporters worked endless hours to advise parents, to read their reports and answer their questions. Dr. Leongard’s methods met a strong opposition from the majority of deaf educators who followed the traditional way. She had to fight with them for every step in introducing her system. Despite all criticism, Emily Leongard worked hard and had enough energy and perseverance to achieve her dream — to give deaf children an opportunity to become full members of hearing society.

Dr. Leongard’s determination and belief in success made it possible for thousands of deaf children to learn oral language to communicate with hearing people and to become independent adults. Her former students now are able to attend competitive schools and find good jobs in many fields. I admire Dr. Leongard’s talent, energy; enthusiasm and hard-work that made my parents’ and many other parents’ dream to come true.

32 VOLTAVOICES -July/August 2003
Dmitry Kashlev 11/25/03
Honors English: E5OH-01 Ms.Schoenfeld
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