By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Senior Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY – Hearing Loss Association of America Central Oklahoma Chapter (HLAA COC) recently awarded scholarships of $1,500 to students Esteli Barrera, Daniel Knowsley, and Ashley Haws at the organization’s annual Ice Cream Social last month.
“We are proud to be able to help these students continue their education. We have been offering scholarships for the past 6 years and have awarded 14 scholarships. With generous support from the public, we hope to continue this program into the future,” said Sharon Hendricks, HLAA Central Oklahoma Chapter chairperson.
Esteli Barrera, daughter of Maria Barrera and a graduate of Fairview High School, will be attending Redlands Community College in El Reno in the fall of 2021. Her first language is Spanish but she learned English as a kindergartener. As a young child she would hear a sound but couldn’t tell from which direction it came. She did well in school but did experience some bullying because of her hearing loss. At her first job, as a waitress, she says she experienced frustrations because of all the conflicting sounds coming from every direction. In high school she tried music and sports but found art to be most satisfying.
Esteli has completed three commissions to paint murals in and around her home town. She plans to study business and art and hopes to start her own mural painting business upon graduation. Esteli’s philosophy is that art will help to inspire people and brighten their world.
From Sayer, Oklahoma, Ashley Haws, the daughter of Tina Haws, says she cannot recall a time without hearing loss. Although she realized she could not hear people speaking to her, it was several years before she was officially diagnosed. Fortunately, her empathetic first grade teacher was instrumental in helping Ashley in the process of getting hearing aids.
“When you fit a child with hearing aids many things happen, mostly good,” Ashley said. “She learns to be responsible; to wear her hearing aids and to sit near the teacher and make many adjustments not required of other children.”
Ashley’s first job required a headset, but it would not allow the use of her hearing aid. Today, hearing on the telephone, in class, distance learning, and face masks are all improved by the new Bluetooth technology.
Ashley will be attending Northwestern Oklahoma State University (NWOSU) in Alva this fall. Her future plans are to work in the medical field, the college of nursing. Although she has had her share of life challenges, she wants to work hard and help others.
Daniel Knowsley, the 18 year old son of Tom and Cyndi Knowsley, is a 2021 graduate of Bridge Creek High School and plans to attend Oklahoma City Community College. Daniel was born with a high-frequency moderately severe and severely profound hearing loss. He received his first pair of hearing aids when he was 5 weeks old and began attending a preschool for children with hearing loss at the age of 3, “where he did so well there that he was kicked out,” the press release stated.
Mainstreamed into preschool at the age of 4, Daniel continued in the Bridge Creek Public School system until graduation. With an interest is graphic design, Daniel says his idea of having a successful life and career isn’t all about the money, rather “it consists of being a good person, respecting other opinions and being kind.”. He considers helping his family and others to be a success in and of itself.
The Hearing Loss Association of America Central Oklahoma Chapter is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization run entirely by volunteers, with no paid positions. HLAA seeks to open the world of communication to people who have a hearing loss by providing information, education, support and advocacy.