Jorge’s Story: From Coping With Hearing Loss To A College Scholarship

A Dynamite Résumé

Jorge Delgado has a résumé that would make any parent proud.

He’s president of the sign language club at his high school in Riverside, California.

He is a mentor for younger students and a technology assistant for the faculty.

He’s been accepted to the highly-ranked Rochester Institute of Technology on a partial scholarship.

He’s planning to study science in preparation for a career in medicine.

This long list of accomplishments has earned Jorge a Yes I Can” award this year.

His achievement is particularly impressive because he was born with a birth defect that left him deaf in his left ear.

A Well-Deserved Win

Jorge has always been a standout student, his teachers say.

That’s why two of them—Theresa Copple from the Riverside County Office of Education, and Kathleen Tejeda from the Alvord Unified School District—nominated him for a 2017 “Yes I Can” award, presented by the Council for Exceptional Children.

The “Yes I Can” program, sponsored by Pearson, recognizes exceptional students from across the country who contribute to their communities in one of the following categories: academics, arts, technology, self-advocacy, school and community activities, and transition.

Jorge has been selected as an award winner in the technology category.

Later this month, he and the eleven other 2017 honorees will travel to Boston to receive their awards at a special ceremony.

“It’s a big honor,” Jorge says. “I can’t wait.”

Childhood Struggles With Communication

Growing up, Jorge says it was often hard to cope with his hearing loss.

“Looking at me, you can’t tell,” he says. “So I was always explaining to teachers—and to other students in my classes—that I couldn’t hear most conversations.”

“Sometimes classmates would get frustrated having to repeat themselves, and they’d say ‘forget it’ and just give up on talking to me,” Jorge says.

“What they might not have realized is that I was just as upset as they were.”

Surgery After Surgery

In an attempt to combat the hearing loss in his left ear, Jorge’s young life was filled with surgeries.

Last summer, Jorge had his eleventh operation.

He was fitted for a high-tech Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA).

He says the results were remarkable.

“I broke into tears.”

“I was so happy to finally be able to hear the way others hear.”

“And it meant I could finally be at peace with my disability.”

Spreading the Word

After his surgery, Jorge says he was especially excited to share his good news with Theresa and Kathleen.

“Seeing the happy looks on their faces when I told them the operation had worked was so special,” Jorge says.

Theresa says Jorge didn’t stop sharing his news with them.

“He took the time to talk about his experience with the other deaf and hard of hearing students at school.”

“His confidence and optimism was contagious,” she says.

Teaching the Teachers

After witnessing the positive ripple effects of Jorge’s experience, Theresa and Kathleen made a decision.

They spearheaded a program at the high school to install special sound equipment in every classroom. The new technology benefits all students, they say, but particularly those who have hearing difficulties.

Theresa and Kathleen say Jorge jumped at the chance to help with the program.

“He made a ‘how-to’ video for teachers,” Kathleen says.

“In it, he demonstrates how to install the systems, and answers questions about how they work.”

“Educating everyone on the system was a huge project,” Theresa says.

“Jorge put in after-school hours to get the job done. That’s just the type of kid he is.”

Giving Back

As Jorge plans for college next year, he says he has spent much time reflecting on his experiences thus far.

“I feel fortunate to have access to the hearing technologies that have helped further my education and improve my every-day life,” he says.

“And also for the people who have helped me through my struggles to get where I am today.”

“Theresa and Kathleen have supported me in so many ways. They keep me on top of my credits, and are always there when I need help, advice, or just company.”

Jorge credits the doctor who performed his last surgery with inspiring him to pursue a degree in medicine.

“I want to give back all the help I’ve ever received.”