When Holmen High School student Sean Deml returned to school in the fall of 2014, he was in for a surprise.
The interpreter he had worked with from the time he was in elementary school had left to take another job in another school district.
The thing is, Deml can’t hear anything without the help of hearing aids and even then he relies heavily on his interpreter.
He was effectively on his own until the school district could find a replacement.
Deml has moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss.
“I virtually can’t hear anything without the hearing aids,” he said.
He and his family don’t know to this day whether he was born deaf. Hearing tests weren’t mandated by the government until 1998, and Deml was born in 1997.
“We don’t know if I was born without it,” he said. “We really don’t know to be honest.”
Even with the help of his hearing aids, he struggles to hear “th” and “sh” sounds.
Normally this was where his interpreter came in handy, but for the vast majority of his junior year it was up to him to figure it out.
It wasn’t until the last quarter of his junior year that the school district was able to find a replacement.
During the first three quarters of the school year, he had to fight to keep up with his classmates.
“I had to raise my hand and ask questions a lot,” he said.
An early riser, he would drive to school at dawn every morning to get one-on-one help from his teachers. After school, Deml was active in wrestling, power lifting and as a member of the robotics team.
While his fellow classmates were burning the midnight oil, Deml was catching some ZZZs.
Because of his parent’s divorce, Deml starts each morning at 4 a.m. when his mother leaves for work. After waking up, he makes his way to his father’s at 4:30 a.m. where he works on homework until he leaves for school.
His hard work and determination ultimately paid off earning him a 4.0 grade point average for two of the three quarters he was without an interpreter.
“I was really happy,” he said, “It really gave me a sense of self confidence.”
While Deml has struggled in some of his classes, especially English, he has excelled in others.
His favorite subject by far is mathematics.
“It’s definitely something you use every day,” he said. “I just love math, especially equations and algebra.”
In eighth grade, Deml took part in a mathematics competition where he placed 14 out 112 students in the deaf and hard-of-hearing division.
This love of mathematics has helped to shape the direction Deml hopes to pursue in college this fall.
Deml wants to be a computer technician.
He is enamored with technology. Deml spends his free time taking apart seemingly useless computers, finding the working parts and using them to repair other computers.
“I’m passionate about computers, desktops and laptops and some others electronics,” he said. “I love fixing up computers from the dump.”
He likes helping people.
“A teacher had a computer with viruses on it, and I was able to do some virus removal on it,” he said.
He said he got so much joy out of seeing the surprise on his teachers face when he was able to return the restored computer the next day.
Deml is also considering a future as a computer programmer, which would allow him to combine his favorite topics, technology and mathematics.
“A lot of it has to do with computers,” he said.
For Deml, his hearing isn’t so much a disability as an obstacle to overcome.
“I don’t think it’s a disability,” he said. “It might take a little more work but I’m OK with that.”
He is set to graduate high school with a 3.5 GPA. He has been accepted to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“I’m ready for college,” he said.
Deml has yet to decide on which university he hopes to attend but is leaning toward attending school at UW-L in the fall.
“I’m passionate about computers, desktops and laptops and some others electronics. I love fixing up computers from the dump.” Sean Deml, Extra Effort winner