March 2017 Daily Herald

Shani Summers was recently awarded a scholarship from Cochlear Americas to help her as she pursues a degree in architecture, something she is very passionate about. “I am just overexcited with anything related to building things and I could literally sit outside for a long time, just to admire amazing architecture,” Summers wrote in an email. “Many architects impress me and I’d love it if someday, I could join them in designing incredible houses, buildings and structures, too.”

In addition to being deaf, Summers was born with Vacterl association, which is a disorder that affects several body systems. Her anomalies include several holes in her heart, fused vertebrae, a narrow trachea, only having one kidney, missing radius bones and no thumbs. Despite these setbacks, Summers, who is originally from Hawaii and has lived in Japan, pushed herself to succeed in her high school classes and graduated with a high GPA.

Summers said that being born without thumbs and unable to sign has made it difficult for her to communicate. That’s why she got a cochlear implant at seven years old. 

Shani Summers“It makes it harder for me to survive in the deaf world because I would not be able to sign to them, which is why I am extremely grateful for my cochlear implant,” she wrote. “It helps me to survive in one of the worlds, the hearing world.”

She said that while she doesn’t communicate via sign language, many people don’t understand that she can understand and communicate.

“It is sometimes frustrating to me because I am perfectly capable of keeping up in conversations, but I just need a little more time to take it all in,” she wrote.

René Courtney, vice president of customer experience and recipient services at Cochlear Americas, said “The scholarship is very competitive with scores that are often only a fraction of a point from each other.  Shani Summers clearly came out as a strong candidate for the Graeme Clark Scholarship demonstrating the Cochlear ideals of leadership and humanity.”