[Cheering] Maui high school junior varsity cheerleader,
Chantal Sandoval, spends her weekends spreading cheer. But what makes this extraordinary is the fact that Chantal is legally deaf. Here is Chantal speaking through an interpreter. Chantal: I was just born that way. When my mother gave birth to me, um she almost died. And then, I don’t know–I became deaf. Narrator: Her deafness, however, has not denied her from pursuing her dream of cheering in front of a crowd. Chantal: Cheering was something I always wondered about, and I just want to know if I could make the team. Narrator: However, Chantal’s journey to becoming a cheerleader for her school was not an easy one. Even with the help of sign language interpreters who help facilitate communication between Chantal and her coach. Coach: Because anybody else I can yell “point your toes, lift your shoulders, keep your head up,” anything like that. But if I try to yell at her to do those things, she doesn’t understand. So–or she doesn’t hear me. So that’s the biggest thing is just trying to get her to really understand what I’m saying. Narrator: As of recently, hearing her teammates and coaches just became easier, thanks to the help of a cochlear implant–a surgically implanted medical device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is deaf or severely hard of hearing. Chantal: Before I got my cochlear, I could still speak for myself and I could, uh, I used hearing aids. But still, it was still hard for me and I would miss a lot of the information. And many people would talk and probably say, speak behind me and I couldn’t understand that. Since I got cochlear, I can understand them a little bit more and my hearing is improving. Narrator: While cochlear has become an easier task for Chantal, the negative stigma surrounding deaf people still remains. Chantal: Many people feel very awkward around or they avoid deaf people. They don’t offer help like in a store. They tend to just ignore you. I feel like ‘really?’, I feel really hurt. I feel like insulted. And just because I’m deaf it doesn’t mean that I’m ignorant. Narrator: Though Chantal has to navigate around these obstacles , she embraces the fact that she is deaf. Chantal: No. Deaf people can do anything. It doesn’t matter if they can’t hear. Just like hearing people, what if they couldn’t walk. Does that mean they can’t do anything? No. They can do anything with a wheel chair. It’s the same thing for deaf people. We can’t hear but we can do anything we want. Narrator: But Chantal wants to make one thing clear: do not call her ‘impaired’ Chantal: Well I don’t like the word impaired. It means something’s broken. [Cheering] And I’m not broken, I’m only deaf, and I was born that way. Don’t call me hearing impaired, call me deaf. Narrator: Chantal Sandoval is a living proof that a communication challenge does not have to keep anyone “off” the sidelines. She plans to continue to spread the Saber spirit as loud as she can. This is Sydney Green, for Maui High School, for Hiki NŌ.