Jennifer Brown is a hard-working and inspiring youth who just completed a summer placement with CHHA-NL. She is starting her first semester of Memorial University in the fall and intends to work towards a bachelor of Social Work degree. Jennifer feels that,
“Obtaining a social work degree will offer many opportunities to help people, as well as be involved in the various fields that interest me. While I’m passionate about many aspects of social work, my hope is that I will be able work in a role where I focus on mental health concerns in the province.”
Jennifer was diagnosed with a severe to profound hearing loss when she was just a baby. Hearing loss is hereditary on her father’s side of the family. Her brother, aunt and father all have some type of hearing loss.
“I used to wear hearing aids on both side of my ears when I was younger but because I have Enlarged Vestibular Aqueducts (EVA) I was implanted on my right side due to a sudden drop in my ability to hear.”
Jennifer doesn’t let hearing loss slow her down. She admits it can be a challenge but also a huge part of her life.
“It taught me to be a great advocate for myself and others; it has helped me view things from new perspectives and allows me to do things that I would never have imagined. One example of an activity that challenged me was singing. At the beginning of my final year of high school I decided that I wanted to be in the choir. I have learned to follow music on the sheets and match it with the sounds on the piano. Things like this have helped me realize that I can do whatever I want if I put my mind to it.”
Using the appropriate technologies and coping strategies have also been important for Jennifer while at school or work. She uses a hearing aid on her left ear and a cochlear implant on her right on a daily basis. She used an FM system up until the end of junior high and has used interpreters since then.
“I will be using an FM system when I attend Memorial University. I also use closed captioning when watching movies or videos both in school and at work. My part-time job at Tim Hortons is fast paced and requires interacting with customers. For the past three years I have used this opportunity to improve on my lip reading and ability to change the programming on my hearing devices when needed. I advocate for myself when I need help with certain things.”
Jennifer has a message for those with hearing loss, or other disabilities: “Why fit in when you’re born to stand out? It’s okay if we are different, we’re all different in one way or another. Be an advocate for yourself as well others; don’t be afraid to voice your needs at work or in an educational environment.”
Jennifer has been involved in CHHA-NL for as long as she can remember. Her mother, Susan Brown, is the Chair of CHHA-NL’s Families Group and she and her brother have been involved since an early age. She actively volunteers with CHHA-NL at events for our youth and families groups. She has also participated in the Leadership Empowerment and Achievement Program (LEAP) – formerly known as Toastmasters, as well as in the Dr. Norah Browne Speak off.
“I have learned many new things and have gained important information and life skills, such as leadership, public-speaking, and advocating for myself. I have also gained new friendships by being involved with CHHA-NL. It has had many positive impacts on my life and I will take the skills that I have learned with me moving forward.
Anyone that knows Jennifer will tell you that she is not afraid to let her true colors shine. Through her involvement in Miss Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador (a scholarship program for young women across the province between the ages of 13-18) she has done just that. Jennifer got a chance to put all of her skills to the test during the program but what really stood out was her eye-opening performance of “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper.
“It was an experience that I would not forget for a long time to come. I performed ‘True Colors’ using American Sign Language. I was able to provide the audience with a new perspective on how an individual with hearing loss can enjoy and listen to music, while also promoting deaf culture. There was tremendous support from the competitors as well as family and friends, which made my experience in the program even better. I will be participating in the scholarship program for my final year this November.”
Jennifer is also the recipient of the CHHA-NL Entrance Scholarship for this year. We, at CHHA-NL, are very proud of all of Jennifer’s achievements and wish her the best with her studies this fall. If the past is any indication we’re sure Jennifer will continue to have a positive impact on the Association and her community for many years to come.