Some kids sit in the front row because they want to. Others do it because they have to.
“When they had the kindergarten hearing test I thought I was doing the test wrong because everybody’s hands were going up and I just didn’t hear anything,” Natalie Lamas recalled.
They diagnosed Natalie with severe hearing loss back then, but look at her now: she’s graduating in the top five percent of her senior class at Hialeah gardens high school, she has straight “A’s” in the demanding Cambridge program, she’s a silver knight nominee, she’s going to FIU next year on scholarship, and she’s a black belt in Taekwondo.
“Life is like, 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent what you make of it,” Natalie said.
Natalie has spent her entire academic career struggling to hear the teacher, to hear her classmates, to hear, period, but her friends say she never uses the disability as an excuse or as a crutch.
“I was always like, I don’t understand why she’s always asking me what the teacher’s saying, I just thought that maybe she wasn’t paying attention, until one day she actually told me I’m hearing impaired and I honestly didn’t notice, she doesn’t make it known, she’s not like 'hi, I’m hearing impaired, pay attention to me,'” said Natalie's classmate, Amanda Rosario.
That’s not Natalie's style. She puts her head down and gets to work.
“You have to work harder, but I’m a person who, if I have to work harder for my goals, I don’t mind doing it,” Natalie said.
“She had goals and she was gonna do whatever she needed to do to reach those goals,” said guidance counselor Yvette Pino.
So Natalie turned to the latest, high-tech hearing aids for help. She says since she got them last summer, her world has changed dramatically. For the first time in her life, she heard a bird chirp, and now, she doesn’t have to struggle as much to understand her teachers. Natalie feels new opportunities have opened up for her.
“If you really want it, you can go get it, so even though the hearing aids are helping me, they’re not what’s getting me there,” Natalie said.
What’s getting her there is her drive to succeed and help others. She’s raised $5,000 for a charity that provides kids with hearing aids in third world countries, and Natalie also counsels students like herself.
“like I was never comfortable with getting help because I always thought it was an embarrassment, and a lot of people feel that way, but people need to understand that resources are there for a reason,” Natalie said.
That message will be heard – loud and clear.