Secrets of My Success
I am about to explain some of the difficulties that I endured during the times of my life in high school, college and employment. I would like to share some thoughts about the keys to my success and what I would do differently. Thankfully, with the guidance from family, grandparents, and friends, I was lucky to have a supporting educational system in high school, college and my current career path. My team consisted of teachers, tutors and therapists who actually cared about me achieving my dreams and were committed to making sure that I graduated with my class, and I did.
Born and raised in Edina, Minnesota, I was mainstreamed in an independent education program known as Independent Educational Plan (IEP) from kindergarten to 12th grade. My support team, which consisted of my family, teachers, and school counselors, would meet quarterly to evaluate my process. Even though I had these many resources to help me become successful, it took a lot of time and effort to overcome the challenges that deaf people face daily. In order for me to be able to graduate with my class, I did more than the average person in high school. At this time, I was a stubborn person and was very independent and hated being told what to do. My parents always reminded me that these teachers were just trying to help and guide me. Many times I just wanted to scream about being deaf with the daily difficulties that hearing people don’t face. This took a long time for me to accept the fact that I am different than most people and how to be positive with my hearing-impairment.
Looking back at my experiences, I was a normal, average person, but had a different and unique way of living. A lot of times, I felt a little too cool to ask teachers to repeat anything or to stay after class to ask teachers questions or thoughts about the subjects that were being taught. In high school I was more worried with keeping up with the Joneses than about my grades, which is quite normal for the average teenager today. Thankfully, I did manage to graduate from high school with a 3.6 GPA. My strong and effective support team and parents who were determined that I succeed, made all the difference in my life – otherwise, I probably would not be who I am today.
In each class that I had from kindergarten to my very last day as an undergraduate, I had extra help in class by having interpreters as well as notetakers. This helped me understand the main information that the teacher was talking about, which I needed to know. The note-takers were a tremendous and positive help in my learning experiences as it was very difficult to take notes while visually focusing on the teacher. As I look back at my experiences, I realized how important this was. I would not have succeeded without this help.
While in high school, I was itching for more action and wanted out of the Midwest. However, not going to college was never really an option for me. My parents and grandparents made sure that I attended a great college and pushed me to achieve my goals and dreams. They also ensured that I got my degree and live a normal life. To begin my college journey, I visited several schools, which included NTID and University of California, Northridge. I ultimately chose University of Denver (DU) for several reasons. It was a top-notch university and they had a great educational support system in place for students with a various range of disabilities.
In addition to a full class load in high school and the various tutors, I also had speech therapy. This was one of the many positive things to help me communicate with the world. I continued speech therapy in college and still continue to work with a therapist to improve my speech, always making the time to do therapy. It may be a challenge, but the opportunity to have to speak normally is something to take pride in. As much as I try to speak clearly, it isn’t easy but it is something that will always be a work in-progress. It soon becomes automatic, but only with persistence and weekly sessions. If you are financially able to do so, I highly suggest you to go and set up these kinds of appointments. One thing that I have learned is that any kind of tutoring or help outside the classrooms are major keys to successes; just make sure it’s the right person! I have said this before; find the help you need and let those people help you achieve your goals.
In order for anyone to get into college, the college applications require taking both or either the ACT or the SAT exam. Preparing for the test was a difficult task for me and I sought help from a retired English teacher to prepare me for this exam. I took the ACT exam twice and they were un-timed. I ended up doing better than I thought. I highly recommend to anyone taking one of these exams that have a disability to take the extra time if you think it would help. I was lucky that my parents were able to afford a tutor to prepare me for this exam. If it is a financial possibility and your child needs the help in passing this exam, it will definitely help in the long run and you won’t regret it. This assistance helped me to attend the college of my dreams. I also used this tutor for writing help. My writing skills improved so greatly that it had made writing the dozens of papers in college a lot easier. I also had problems in the math department was well. I had a math tutor my entire four years of high school and with out the help, I know I would not have been able to graduate with my class. It was definitely well worth that extra help and beneficial to my learning styles.
The transition from high school to college was a difficult one. I thought I was back at camp! Leaving my friends who I had known my entire life and having to make new friends was a challenge itself that was not easy to overcome. I was confident that people would like me, but many of them had never been around a hard of hearing person. But, it ended up being easier than I thought and I made friends that I know I was going to have for life. How? Just be the person you are and everything else will fall into place.
The best part of college was learning so much about myself and who I am. It was during college that I grew the most mentally, physically, emotionally and socially. If I had a time machine I would be back in college today. One of the biggest and most surprising challenges that I faced was balancing schoolwork with the activities that I was passionate about pursing. But who said balancing life and classes was easy? Another reason I choose the University of Denver was that I could be in close proximity to Colorado’s playground and the numerous of activities it offered. My main reason was that I wanted to ski. My passion for skiing originated from my involvement with the United States Ski Association in high school and the Edina High School ski racing team. In fact, I joined DU Club Ski Team to continue my passion with ski racing and to have fun doing what I enjoyed to do.
Initially, my dream was to become a real estate agent. As a teenager I would go to the Parade of Homes each year and tour them with friends. Looking at what builders where building, I realized my strong passion for housing development. I thought that I would graduate and become a real estate agent helping others find their perfect homes. However, I am so grateful that I ended up choosing a different profession due to the tough economic times. It was during my sophomore year in college that I realized my passion for Business and Marketing; given my creative nature I knew that I would be good at advertising and marketing. I was interested in all that went into advertising and marketing. I ended up switching my majors and then ultimately graduated with a B.A. in Communications with a minor in Marketing. Currently, I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, working for an agency of Guardian Life Insurance in Accounting, Compliance and Investment and serving as a Board Member for Lifetrack, a non-profit where MN H&V is housed.
If I had to do anything over again I would have done my freshman year much differently. For starters, I rushed a fraternity; this ultimately was not a good idea. It was one of the things that led me to failing my first quarter of college, as I was not prepared to take the job of being a college student seriously. I didn’t realize the consequences of not taking my first year of college seriously. Luckily, I realized during the fall of my sophomore year how important it was to take college seriously and to graduate with good grades. How did I wake up from that dream? Unsure. It was one day that it just clicked that I had to work harder and focus more. I will tell you what, college was a big wake up call for me and it did get my life back on track. I should have been more focused on what college offered me and taken more advantage of it. I highly recommend college to everyone.
Having convenient access to the mountains did present some problems for my academic life. Finding the balance between schoolwork and skipping classes for the fresh powder was a big challenge. This was where I needed to grow up as a person and I did. I think it is vital to do well in school, but also take part in teams and other activities outside of the classroom. If I had not been on that team, I would not have the confidence or the determination to make it through grueling and painful course runs. Remember, it is okay to get hurt and to be challenged. I highly suggest getting involved with many other sports your school districts/colleges offer to you. Without these teams, I would not have developed the motivation, determination and friendships that I currently have, which made me a better person.
While the transition from college to the work force was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, I wished I had done a better job being more proactive about getting a job. Having an internship in my major during college would have helped me be more prepared for a career after college. Given the job market that existed after I graduated, an internship would have helped me greatly. It helped most people I know who graduated with me. I highly recommend you find a meaningful internship as it can provide a great introduction to life after college as well as on the job experience. After I graduated, I traveled to Europe. At the same time, the economy fell off a cliff. It was a difficult transition going from 20 years of having everything planned weeks ahead of time to not having a daily schedule and looking for a career. This was a huge adjustment for me, but I haven’t given up hope and never will.
While not every experience in college was a great one, I know that the personal growth that occurred from my experiences was worth the ups and downs. If I hadn’t listened and allowed these support systems to guide and help me, I know I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today. I succeeded because of the determination and encouragement my parents, grandparents and friends provided to me. I also learned more about who I was and finding the engine that never knew ran inside of me before. I don’t care if someone is deaf, or blind or even normal; the ability of parents to show their kids the important parts of their life and it will be instilled in them for the rest of their life. I also would not have found this little engine if it wasn’t for all the tutors, therapist, teachers and the help I received at Edina as well as DU. Parents, if your child is doing badly with a class subject or a sport, make sure you go the extra mile to ensure your child is getting all the help they need.
Finally, let me leave you with this – to parents, students, and anyone. Life is Life! This quote, I made it up one day and it just clicked. It is almost too good to be true. As funny as it may sound, I know it is really true that we are just enjoying a rollercoaster of ups and downs and seeing what tomorrow brings. Be proactive, be an advocate, work hard and be the best you can be in what you do in life!