School for the Deaf valedictorian says don't give up your dream

June 27, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART


Pam Harbaugh knew when she brought her newborn daughter home from the hospital that she was deaf, even though the doctors weren't so sure.

"She didn't startle," Harbaugh said, noting that sudden, loud noises that would make her jump had no effect on her daughter.

Though there is no argument that this hearing loss has affected Jennifer Timmons' life, both her mother and grandmother believe that in the long run, Jennifer has overcome every hurdle in her 18 years.


On the heels of her June 4 graduation as valedictorian from the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick, Md., Jennifer, who was born and raised in Hagerstown, planned to report to Penn State University this weekend. She has been accepted into the Eberly College of Science.

"I go to school June 26 and classes start on June 29," said Jennifer, who signed comments through her mother. Jennifer said she is taking two summer classes which will wind up Aug. 13. The fall semester begins Aug. 30.

Harbaugh said Jennifer's profound hearing loss was confirmed in 1988 when she was 16 months old. Even at that young age, Jennifer showed signs of high intelligence, which her mother and grandmother labored to develop.

"Jennifer knew her colors and her numbers by the time she was 2," Harbaugh said. "She was a fast learner from the start."

When she was 3, Jennifer was enrolled at the Maryland School for the Deaf, going three days a week at first and then all day, every day at age 4. She continued to study there until her high school graduation.

Grandmother Linda Harbaugh said she is so very proud of Jennifer and remarked that she has managed to have a well-rounded life experience so far.

"She was not only valedictorian but also the prom queen," she said. And she played basketball and was active in student government.

Jennifer has even found time in her busy life to write poetry. "Our Souls will be Remembered" was included in the graduation program at the Maryland School for the Deaf.

Still her eyes are on the skies.

"I first found out about space in science class when I was in the sixth grade," Jennifer said. Then she began exploring the Internet for more information. Excelling in math and science, she enrolled in NASA's Young Astronaut program when she was in seventh grade.

"All she talked about was NASA and astronomy," Harbaugh said. That led to a stint in the Advanced Space Academy in Huntsville, Ala., three years ago.

Now, as she embarks on her college career, Jennifer has chosen an astronomy major and English minor at Penn State. Her high achievements led to three scholarships.

"I will be living on campus," she said. "I understand there are six other deaf or hearing-impaired students."

Harbaugh said she is a little concerned that there won't be enough interpreters to go around although there are efforts to provide Jennifer with an electronic device for her lecture courses.

"I don't think of my deafness as a handicap," Jennifer said. "It is more of an inconvenience."

Jennifer urges other hearing-impaired young people to challenge themselves as she has done.

"Don't give up your dreams ... work hard and you will get what you want," she said.

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