Since she was a young girl, Tess Grossman has been a pioneer for millions of people who are often defined by what they can’t do, rather than what they can. You see, Tess was born with a profound hearing loss in both ears.
As a child, she was among the first generation of children to receive a cochlear implant. This electronic device gives a representation of sound by stimulating the auditory nerve of the brain system by receiving and transmitting electrical signals.
Although this technology greatly increases Tess’s ability to understand speech, it doesn’t eliminate all difficulties. Someone who is deaf, and then receives a cochlear implant, must learn what sounds mean. Details like the mouth positions are necessary to make sounds or figurative language, must be taught, day by day, step by step. For Tess, it took an incredible amount of diligence and patience to master reading, writing and speaking. In fact, it wasn’t until seventh grade that she felt comfortable with these skills. Her dedication paid off--by the time she was a senior in high school, Tess was reading and writing beyond a college level and had risen to the top of her class.
Tess’s experiences ultimately inspired her to become a leader and advocate for the deaf community through the creation of Hear & Now, a support group for deaf children and teens, and their parents.
“Disabled people face so much enmity and bigotry in their lifetimes because the vast majority of people still believe that if you are disabled you cannot do anything; you cannot get an education, you cannot get a job, and your quality of life is depleted,” says Tess. “My role in the community of deaf and hard-of-hearing people is to say, ‘you can’. You can do anything you set your mind to, as long as you have patience and persevere.”
Hear & Now provides people affected by hearing loss with a support system by connecting them with others in similar situations. The program is tailored to age--kindergartners through fourth graders participate in group interaction through crafts and games, while the older children tackle social and communication challenges, learn to advocate for themselves and practice self-acceptance. The parent group focuses on education, common concerns, shared experiences and solutions.
“Hear & Now has changed the lives of many young children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. It has forged new opportunities and opened new doors for the teens, and finally, it has educated the parents about our world and that a deaf or hard-of-hearing person can still do as much as a hearing person can, if not more!”
The program earned Tess the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement within Girl Scouts. An 18-year old senior at Tesseract School, Tess has been a Girl Scout for 11 years, and models Girl Scout values of leadership and service on a daily basis.
Through her leadership in the deaf community, Tess is being recognized in the larger community as well. On October 17 she will be honored with the Visionary Award at the Women & Young Women of Distinction luncheon at the JW Marriot and Camelback Inn. The luncheon, hosted by Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine, celebrates women and girls who are leaders among their peers, and live by Girl Scout values.
Learn more about all the honorees, or purchase tickets at girlscoutsaz.org/wywd.