Isfeld student Quinn Hoar (right), with teacher Katelin Miller, celebrates her first-place provincial finish in a public speaking contest for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Photo SD71

Isfeld student Quinn Hoar (right), with teacher Katelin Miller, celebrates her first-place provincial finish in a public speaking contest for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Photo SD71

Comox Valley student wins B.C. deaf, hard-of-hearing speech contest

“It would be so cool to write my own story.”

A Vancouver Island student’s speech resonated in a speaking competition for deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students, enough to take first place.

Quinn Hoar, who is in Grade 9 at Isfeld Secondary in the Comox Valley, took part last year, but came out on top in the province this time at the Spotlight event, held on April 11.

The Provincial Outreach Program: Deaf and Hard of Hearing put on the showcase this year, which brought together nearly 80 students from across B.C. Along with the speaking event, there was a poetry component and an art contest.

In most years, students travel to the Lower Mainland for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Friendship Week. Previously, the Spotlight competition was put on by the Optimist Club, but now the provincial program is running the event, which was entirely online this year.

The event provides a chance for students to talk about their experiences in an environment everyone understands.

“I got to go watch it one year and I found it was really cool how a bunch of these kids kind of came together and how they all managed to write different stories,” Hoar says. “It would be so cool to write my own story.”

She has worn hearing aids for as long as she can remember.

“I got them when I was two years old,” she says. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”

Every year, the students from grades 6 through 12 put together a speech based on a topic. This year’s topic was why they are proud to be deaf or hard of hearing, so Hoar worked with Katelin Miller, a local teacher for DHH students, on the project, going through questions and points to raise in the presentation.

“I really just was typing everything she said madly,” the teacher says with a laugh.

Hoard had taken part in public speaking during elementary school, but competition is something new for her, though it is clear she made an impact. In her speech, she talks about being hard of hearing is not what defines but is only a part of her. She mentions going through French immersion with her twin sister and how her hearing level has provided challenges she has faced with optimism and a positive mindset

She was joined in the winners’ circle by another Comox Valley student. Finley Adamson, a Grade 6 student from Cumberland, finished second place in his first year competing. His speech talked about learning to appreciate his identity. As he said in his speech, “A defining moment in my identity was when I first went on a field trip with my teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing to meet other kids who were deaf and hard of hearing. I learned to play new games and met new people. I got to see other people like me – I never knew anyone at my school who was like me.”

The event this year was held online, as many things have been the last couple of years. The plan is for an in-person competition again next year.

One of the rules is that the students do not announce who they are or where they are from.

“It was nice, but it was very nerve wracking,” Miller adds. “All the speeches are so good…. I don’t know how the judges choose.”

READ MORE: Comox Valley student wins top French immersion honour

The announcement of the winners marked the only time they mentioned names. Hoar felt her speech was good in terms of tackling the question, but she did not know what to expect as far as the results.

In a way, the competition is secondary, says her teacher, to the act of bringing the students together in the first place. Miller adds her students sign up for the experience rather than the prize.

Hoar confirms this, saying the important part is being with people who share the same experiences and understand what being deaf or hard of hearing means.

“They would completely understand and know. It’s nice having that conversation without having to explain,” she says.

The full video of the speeches is on YouTube, with Adamson speaking at 2:01:22 and Hoar speaking at 2:07:08.

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School District 71