At birth, 16-year-old Sade was born mostly deaf. She could only hear 30% out of one ear. As a child, Sade learned to communicate by reading lips. Naturally caring, Sade always had a passion for helping others. However, her battles with bullying and shyness prevented her from speaking out.
Once she got to elementary school, Sade’s struggles with deafness worsened. “I got bullied a lot,” says Sade. Sade also faced academic obstacles; she had to wear an FM system. This allowed teachers to speak to her through microphones, but it also made her a target for bullies. Sade struggled to maintain her grades and always had to ask for extra academic support. Once Sade got to middle school, she began wearing a hearing aid. This made the bullying even worse. She was also bullied for her appearance. Sade became very shy, lacked confidence, and her self-esteem sank.
“Ever since I came to COA I just feel more comfortable. I learned to self-advocate. Now whenever something happens, I speak up.”
Two years ago, at age 14, Sade started attending the Teen program at COA’s Goldin Center, which provides daily, after-school and summer youth development programs. At first, she was still insecure and nervous. She didn’t know if the other teens would accept her. However, she soon noticed the program’s family-like atmosphere and how fellow youth treated each other with respect. “I felt accepted right away,” says Sade. Aside from tutoring and helping the basketball team, Sade’s favorite part about COA has been getting to know staff: “Staff are amazing. It’s like we’re all a family.” Being welcomed so warmly at COA allowed Sade to open up in ways she never thought possible. “Ever since I came to COA I just feel more comfortable. I learned to self-advocate. Now whenever something happens, I speak up.”
At COA Sade also finally got a chance to cultivate her passion for helping others. She even gained the confidence to plan and host a community-wide event designed to encourage young people to have higher self-esteem. She collaborated with two other Goldin teen participants to host a community fashion show to promote healthy self-image called “Defining Me.” The goal of this event was to help youth find their identity and purpose. Youth engaged in self-esteem building activities, plus a fashion show and dinner. Sade’s goal is to combat bullying by teaching youth to embrace others and learn that appearances aren’t the only things that matter. She wants people to feel comfortable with themselves: “How other people feel about you shouldn’t dictate how you feel about yourself,” says Sade.
Being at COA is what allowed Sade to gain the confidence and the resources to organize this event and be more involved in the community.
Through planning this event, the first she’s ever led, Sade learned a ton of great leadership and planning skills. Being at COA is what allowed Sade to gain the confidence and the resources to organize this event and be more involved in the community. Sade hopes the fashion show is just the first of many community engagement events that she organizes.
Sade’s future goal is to become a surgeon and to continue to help and inspire people who suffer from physical disabilities, bullying, and low self-esteem. Through all her barriers to success, Sade has used her negative experiences of growing up deaf and facing constant bullying to help others. “Now I’m proud to be deaf,” says Sade. “I’m not ashamed of it.”