Jordan High School student Pam Mower thinks being profoundly deaf is circumstantial and by no means a disadvantage in achieving what her peers are capable of accomplishing.
"It's not a disability. I just can't hear. That's all. I have to work a little bit harder," Mower said through her interpreter, Lori Wheatley, at the Jordan District Technical Center.Every obstacle her deafness has presented, Mower has successfully surmounted.
In middle and high school, Mower was able to join dance companies, even though she had difficulty keeping up with the rest of the students. Mower found a way to feel the music vibrations on the floor and started counting in her head to the different beats.
"I have to work a little bit higher on things that require hearing. I have to work a little bit harder."
The busy senior loves to read, shop, make friends, watch people, play baseball and volleyball and is taking advantage of a unique district computer and management training program that has won national recognition.
Mower is considering studying child psychology or special education. She plans to attend Salt Lake Community College next year, then transfer to Utah Valley Community College and then attend Gallaudet University in Washington. Gallaudet is the only university in the country exclusively for deaf people.
The 18-year-old is quick to point out that Gallaudet is a university where students are politically involved. Mower said she likes the school because students there protested a year ago demanding their president also be a deaf person. The protests resulted in the naming of the college's first deaf president.
Although she doesn't consider herself an advocate of rights for the deaf, Mower said she still experiences resentment and frustration when she realizes a large segment of the population is ignorant about deaf people.
"I get upset when I hear things that happen to deaf people that shouldn't happen, like when deaf people are forced to be oral, when they can't understand anything.
"We need to educate people more on deaf people and the culture. A lot of people think that if their children learn sign language they won't use their voice. I sign and I use my voice."
Mower has compensated so well for her deafness that teachers and peers haven't considered it a handicap. She reads lips well, and she earned all A's last quarter in school.
Mower was born profoundly deaf after her mother contracted pneumonia during pregnancy. Doctors didn't think Mower would be born alive.
Nine months after she was born, her mother took a pan and a spoon and went into her room while she was taking a nap, banging them above her head to find out how good her hearing was. When Mower kept on sleeping, her family realized she was deaf.
Mower started taking speech therapy when she was 10 months old. She soon learned sign language from teacher Kathy Travous, a special education teacher who inspired her to excel.
Unlike the majority of families with deaf children, Mower's parents, brother and sister sign, she said.
Mower attended a special school for the deaf until she was in third grade, then her parents decided to mainstream her. "They've accepted me and I've had a lot of friends.
"I've been very lucky because a lot of deaf people's parents don't take the time to learn sign language."
But her life has not been without challenges and discrimination. She remembers how in middle school, two students in an art class threw clay at her and made fun of her. "Clay got on me. I don't know if they threw it at me, but that hurt my feelings. I went home and I was upset and started thinking that people who make fun of the handicapped are not that great themselves. If I see people making fun of others I lose respect for them."
renee Pay, director of the Advanced Business Computer Management Training Program, said, "She has more than just the normal determination and motivation to succeed. She doesn't let anything stop her."