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May 30, 2003

Hearing-impaired graduate has can-do attitude

From: Richmond Palladium Item, IN - May 30, 2003

By Mary Sell
Staff writer

HAGERSTOWN -- It's not her impairment that makes Alisha Sparks different or special. It's how she has overcome it.

When she was in the second-grade the Hagerstown resident was diagnosed with a hearing impairment - one audiologist even told her mother she should be in a school for the deaf. Sunday afternoon Sparks will graduate with her classmates from Hagerstown High School.

"She said, 'I am hearing impaired, how can I do this,' not 'I'm hearing impaired, I can't do this," said Norene Schlotterbeck, the hearing specialist for Nettle Creek School Corp.

Schlotterbeck has worked with Sparks since elementary school.

"She's always been a very motivated student," Schlotterbeck said. "She never let that get in her way. She never used it as an excuse."

Sparks, 19, will begin taking classes in early childhood development at Ivy State Tech College in Richmond this fall.

"I've always wanted to be a teacher," Sparks, who turned 19 last week, said. "It's my lifetime goal, you could say."

Sparks wears a hearing aid in each ear and has an audio trainer, a device that lets her hear her teachers more clearly.

"I've had to concentrate a little bit harder," Sparks said.

She said she only has real problems hearing when she can't see the face of the person speaking to her.

"I mainly read lips, I can hear you, but it's easier to read lips," she said.

The two things Sparks will miss most about high school are her teachers and her friends.

"They've supported me with my hearing impairment, they've worked with me and helped me with projects," she said. "I go to them if I don't understand something."

For the last two years Sparks has been attending class at Hagerstown part of the day and going to the New Castle Area Vocational School to study early childhood education. She is a member of the National Vocational Technical Honor Society.

Sparks is employed by the Palladium-Item as a delivery person.

Hagerstown Principal Mark Childs describes Sparks as dedicated and motivated.

"She is one of the hardest working kids that I think we've had in our school," he said. "I think that most everyone would identify her as a joy to be around."

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