Hearing not a prerequisite for Baker spirit
The crowd, the game and the cheerleaders at Baker University ball games combine to create a solid wall of noise, but the commotion doesn't bother one cheerleader she can't hear its intensity.
Lindsay Boilla, a freshman from Tulsa, Okla., has been partially deaf since she was 18 months old. She can hear loud noises with the assistance of a hearing aid, but without it she is totally deaf. But that hasn't stopped her from setting high goals and achieving them.
"I cheer because it's fun," Boilla said. "It's a chance to get together with friends and have a good time. The games are exciting, especially when the crowd gets behind us."
Her parents enrolled her in gymnastics when she was 3 years old to help her regain her balance after she became deaf. Her mother, Jan Dumont, said gymnastics gave her daughter the confidence and knowledge she could do anything, and she hasn't stopped since.
Boilla attended public schools her whole life and has been cheering since eighth grade. Her mother always insisted that she be taught regular English in school, not just American Sign Language.
"I insisted that she be treated like everyone else growing up. She just had to work harder," said Dumont.
And that's the way Boilla likes it. She doesn't want to be treated differently. Although she can't make out the words when a cheer begins, she watches other squad members to catch on. But she easily keeps up with music because she can hear very loud noises. Boilla has an interpreter for her college classes that is provided by the university.
"It's not really that hard for me to be deaf," Boilla said. "I'm used to working hard for everything I've achieved. And my friends have always been willing to help me out."
According to Baker squad members, Boilla's hearing impairment has just taken a little getting used to. They haven't changed routines or cheers to accommodate her. Because Boilla reads lips, members face her so she can see what they are saying.
Baker cheerleading coaches also have adjusted to Boilla. Patty Lenning, cheer coach, said it's helped that Boilla is so confident in her abilities.
"I'm just so impressed with what she can do," Lenning said.
Boilla's roommate and squad member Jocee Farrar, a freshman from Medicine Lodge, learned sign language and helps the squad communicate.
Farrar and Boilla met last spring at cheerleading tryouts. Farrar decided to take a sign language class during the summer so she would be able to communicate better with Boilla.
Farrar said learning to sign has made casual conversation much easier. Many of Boilla's friends at Baker are picking up sign language, too.
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