Gloria Buhler was diagnosed with branchiootorenal syndrome when she was 3 years old. The condition, otherwise known as BOR, is a genetic disorder that affects the development of tissues in the neck and causes malformations of the ears and kidneys.
In Gloria’s case, she suffered hearing loss and was diagnosed with deafness. She has lived nearly her entire life hearing with the help of hearing aids.
Growing up with BOR wasn’t easy. Gloria’s vocabulary took longer to develop, and she had to work twice as hard at other students to keep up. But her disadvantage taught her determination, and determination taught her perseverance.
Gloria was raised just like any other child, said Melody Buhler, Gloria’s mom. And she learned early on that her deafness didn’t define her.
Because of her constancy and steadfastness, Gloria was recognized as this year’s recipient of the Tribune’s Extra Effort Award for Arcadia High School. And she credits the award to her deafness.
“I believe it’s actually helped me a lot,” Gloria said. “I had to overcome a challenge, so I learned how to work really hard.
“Every once in a while, (being deaf) was hard, and it still is. But I try to continue on to the best of my ability.”
In every other way, Gloria is just like any other high school senior.
She enjoys hanging out with her friends on the weekends, listening to music and watching television. She likes reading and spending time with her family, and she can’t wait to graduate from high school and attend college this fall.
But her commitment to her academics is anything but ordinary, not to mention her involvement with extracurricular activities. And finding success despite her condition is one of the reasons she won the award.
“She gets pretty top-level grades,” said Paul Anderson, Arcadia High School science teacher. “And she works very hard to achieve those grades.
“She’s gotten so good with dealing with (her deafness) that you wouldn’t even know she has a hearing problem.”
Gloria is involved in Skills USA, Librarians Club, Masquers Club and Arcadia Connections. She is learning how to speak Spanish and works as a teacher’s assistant for Anderson.
She also helps coach the Arcadia High School swim team — she swam competitively her freshman, sophomore and junior years — and works as her school’s academic ceremony planner, where she assists with organizing spring commencement.
In order to stay on top of her academics, Gloria enrolled in upper-level classes, and she is taking courses through Western Technical College. She also manages the track and field and girls basketball teams.
“I’m a busy student who tries to keep my academic GPA up,” Gloria said. “But I also try to enjoy high school.”
“She’s a great kid and has helped so many people here,” Anderson said.
Gloria is busy applying for college scholarships, and she plans to pursue a career in forensic science as a detective or a forensics analyst. She hopes to land a job with the FBI.
Gloria was accepted into the University of New Haven in West Haven, Conn., George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Saint Mary’s University and Winona State University, but she has narrowed it down to two: University of New Haven and Saint Mary’s University.
Her hearing impairment has steered her into the right direction personally, academically and professionally, she said. Her condition has taught her to appreciate what she has and help her to become a good role model.
Moving away from home is a big step, but Gloria is excited “to get out in the world and explore.”
Melody Buhler said she’s “a little scared that (Gloria) is going to be by herself,” but she’s “proud of the fact that she wants to stretch herself so far away from home.”
“I think she will be able to succeed because she looks at it as a whole picture, not just little bites,” Melody Buhler said. “Her strength has been her ability to adapt to any situation.”
“She’s always been a real good student,” said Luke Buhler, Gloria’s dad. “I’m very proud of her.”