Local scholar overcomes challenges | ParkRecord.com

Local scholar overcomes challenges

Brooke Shinaberry still remembers the pain. How could she forget?

Born with moderate hearing loss, she was not like other students — or at least that’s what the bullies said. Her self-esteem suffered. She wondered if she’d ever find her place.

"It was definitely hard," Shinaberry said. "I felt like I stood out. I was made fun of a lot and bullied and told I wouldn’t do a lot with my life."

Eventually, Shinaberry learned to overcome her disability and shake off her detractors. The Maryland native became a star athlete, making the U-19 national lacrosse team and earning an athletic scholarship to Vanderbilt University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in science and a master’s degree in education.

Shinaberry, who moved to Park City eight years ago following her time at Vanderbilt, recently notched another achievement. She is pursuing an additional master’s degree at the University of Utah and received the $8,000 Cochlear Americas Graeme Clark Scholarship Award. The national scholarship is given annually to eight students who have Nucleus Cochlear hearing implants.

Shinaberry, who lost the rest of her hearing when she was 21, said she was stunned to find out she’d won the award, whose application process requires an essay and recommendations.

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"I knew it was really hard to get," she said. "To be chosen out of all the people who applied was definitely shock."

The implant, which is in her right ear, allows her to understand about 70 percent of what she hears in that ear. Her left ear is still completely deaf.

Shinaberry is studying to become a certified therapeutic recreational specialist, which would allow her to work with other people with disabilities. She hopes to teach them the lesson she learned long ago: No matter what challenges you face, or what anyone else says, there is a place for you.

For Shinaberry, that place was the athletic field. Sports became her outlet, a way to feel connected like she’d never been before. Slowly, she began to fit in.

"I think I was such a good athlete, and I excelled at all the sports that I did, that it allowed people to look past my hearing disability and look at me as an individual," Shinaberry said.

Shinaberry is excited about the prospect of using the scholarship to eventually help others overcome their own challenges. Though she struggled in her childhood, she knows the journey is ultimately worth it.

"When I was younger, it definitely held me back," she said. "I didn’t have a very high self-esteem. But I think now, looking back on it, it’s shaped me into the person I am. It’s given me a strong work ethic and given me a unique way of looking at life and the challenges that are given to me."