Jentry is the daughter I never had. I love her as if she's my own and I have the same hopes and dreams for her that I have for my own sons. I have had the privilege of watching her grow from a very quiet, slightly insecure little girl into a confident, outstanding young woman. Actually, it is as if I have witnessed a metamorphosis.
Born with profound hearing loss in both ears, Jentry was at a slight disadvantage for most of her childhood years. Through multiple hearing aids, FM transistors, and, finally, cochlear implants in both ears, she has been challenged all her life to listen and hear in a way that most of us cannot possibly comprehend.
Unfortunately, in our society, hearing loss isn't just a physical handicap but it has a way of becoming a social handicap as well. As a child, Jentry had to pay extremely close attention to her teachers and classmates to follow their conversations. Because she had to become adept at "piecing" together the words that she actually heard into the empty spaces she didn't quite hear, a lot of context and subtle meanings were missed. This can be a huge problem when you're a little girl on the playground trying your darnedest to keep up with what the other kids are saying. Or when you're at that very fragile age when acceptance by your peers is so very important. Tho she was never mistreated, she was often simply overlooked.
Let me just say that Jentry handled all of that beautifully. She had such a refreshing purity and innocence about her. Yes, there were some painful times like there are for all young girls hoping to be part of a "group". Fortunately for Jentry, her mom (my own personal bff!) was her very best friend and what a friend she was! I still remember the two of them staying home together most Friday nights to watch "Reba" (although "Gilmore Girls" was their very fave). Jentry had an amazing support system in her mother (again, MY bff!) that sustained her through the most challenging of times.
OK…enough about the challenges and difficulties of being deaf. Let me tell you about our little girl now. Twenty-two years old and a senior at William Jewell College in Liberty, Kansas, Jentry is about to embark on an adventure and a journey that most people would shudder at. After first completing her internship this June at the Cochlear Institute of America, she will pack her duffle bag, grab her sunscreen and head south for the Peruvian Amazon. Let me say that again, people……THE AMAZON !!!!! I believe that there are man-eating piranhas and anacondas and giant hairy bugs big enough to bite off limbs and natives with poison darts and MAJOR HUMIDITY!! Not to mention no interior plumbing, hair dryers or Diet Cokes! I get the heeby-jeebies just thinking about it! AND not to mention the fact that Jentry is barely five feet tall and a hundred pounds soaking wet.
This is all happening because Jentry is one of fifteen students from across the United States selected to participate in an International Field Workshop sponsored by Phonak and Global Explorers called "Hear the World". It is part of a worldwide campaign aimed at bringing awareness and support to the importance of hearing. In addition to exploring the bio-diverse rainforests of THE AMAZON , Jentry and her group hope to work with the local communities to promote a greater understanding of both the challenges and solutions to deafness. She recently returned from a four-day conference in Estes Park, Colorado to meet with her co-volunteers and discuss strategies and activities for the trip.
So….in addition to now having an abundance of wonderful friends that love and adore her for who she is, Jentry has developed amazing photography and artistic skills and does a weekly editorial cartoon for her college newspaper. Like all normal college girls, she actively participates in all those friendly sorority competitions and skits that she may have missed out on in her younger years. I could go on and on but I have already exceeded my self-imposed limit on extensive verbage.
Do I sound like a proud mother? Heck, yah, I am! I have witnessed God's goodness, once again, in the life of someone I care very deeply about. There is just no telling where all this will lead in Jentry's life but you can be sure of one thing….she will enter into each new opportunity with the confidence and self-assuredness of the amazing young woman she has become. And she will be a true ambassador for Listening and Hearing in the 21st century. Mark my words…..she is going to do GREAT things. That's OUR girl!