LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) – A local student continues to overcome great odds.
Abigail Brewer, originally from Goode, is now among only eight in the nation to receive a prestigious college scholarship.
Despite being born without her right ear, facing single-sided deafness, she is a talented musician and now a successful Liberty University student.
What makes Abigail so special isn’t what she was born without, but instead the gift that came with what she was given.
“I’m able to listen to more people’s story and share my story because of having one ear than what I ever would have two,” explained Abigail.
You’ll find her studying around campus at Liberty or leading a group in her dorm.
Meeting Abigail and talking to the eloquently-spoken teenager, you would never know the challenges she has faced. Her bright smile is the first thing you notice.
Her story; however, is extraordinary.
It wasn’t until she was 14 years old that she received a Baha System, a bone conduction implant that allowed her to hear as she would with two ears.
She remembered the first time it was turned on and the sounds that first stood out to her.
“The first noise that really blew me away after I got my Baha activated was the sound of a crinkling plastic bag that we heard in a restaurant that we went to after it was activated. It was just so clear and crisp and I had never really thought about the sound of a plastic bag until after I had my Baha,” recalled Abigail.
Abigail described the change as “turning on surround sound.”
Before the implant; however, she said she never let her deafness stop her.
“I enjoy seeing what I can do, and pushing myself to do new things,” Abigail said.
Although she is a freshman at Liberty University, Abigail is already ahead of most of her classmates. Because of duel enrollment classes, she took while attending Liberty Christian Academy, she has enough credits to be a sophomore.
“I’ve never once felt held back or unqualified because of my hearing loss. If anything, I would say it gave me a launch pad to do greater things than I knew I could do,” Abigail said.
In fact, despite her hearing impairment, she began playing the drums when she was in fifth grade. She continued through high school and even played with Liberty University’s indoor drumline last spring.
“I love music. It’s one of the biggest blessings in my life to be able to do that,” Abigail said.
Abigail was one of eight in the nation recently awarded with a scholarship from Cochlear Americas. On Sunday, February 19, she was awarded the 2017 A Anders Tjellström Scholarship for her success in academic endeavors, in addition to leadership and humanity she demonstrated in her community. Thanks to the scholarship, she’s earning a degree from LU to help others communicate.
The Anders Tjellström Scholarship is named after Anders Tjellström, the research physician at the department of otolaryngology at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden who collaborated with Per-Ingvar Brånemark, a pioneer in his field, to treat the first patient with a Baha device.
A total of $64,000 in scholarship funds will be awarded this year. Each of the eight students will receive $2,000 per year for up to four years at an accredited college or university, for a total of $8,000 per student. Since 2002, Cochlear has awarded $568,000 to 80 college students.
“When it comes to hearing, language is so important in our culture whether it is verbal language or non-verbal language. I love being able to help students learn English,” Abigail said.
She currently works with preschoolers after class and she hopes to make that a career.
She plans to teach English as a second language after graduation. Although she doesn’t know where that profession could take her, she says she plans to follow God on the path that he has set out for her.
“I firmly believe that all people are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that all of us are born with a purpose. My hearing loss, or missing ear isn’t a mistake,” Abigail said. “One of my friends always says that ever set back is a set up for a comeback and that’s how I view challenges that I have, that I can use this.”