SOMEONE YOU SHOULD KNOW
Sarah Flowers splits her time each day between Cheektowaga Central and St. Mary’s for the Deaf high schools. And her choice of colleges is split between the Rochester Institute of Technology and Flagler College.
But one thing for certain is that she’ll have an easier time paying for her education. Flowers, who was born completely deaf, has already won a $10,000 scholarship through Coca-Cola and may see that increased to $20,000 next month.
The senior is one of 200 finalists out of more than 84,000 applicants for the $20,000 scholarship. As such, she will attend a conference on April 12 in Atlanta to meet with the selection committee. Fifty-two of the 200 finalists will receive the scholarship.
But what is even more exciting for Flowers is the chance to visit Atlanta and meet the other finalists, students she has already befriended through Facebook.
“That would be an amazing experience,” Flowers said with assistance from her interpreter, Kathy Miehs.
Flowers has already been accepted to both schools, but sees Flagler, located in the heart of St. Augustine, Fla., as the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I haven’t decided yet, but I’m really hoping to go to Flagler,” she said. “It would be a whole new experience for me. Flagler has great programs. It has a beautiful campus, and it’s right in the town.”
The $20,000 scholarship would cover nearly all of the $22,500 per year cost of the school.
But if she decides to attend RIT, she’ll have a familiar face on campus: her brother, Steven. And Flowers already knows the campus, since she likes to visit her brother and cook dinner for him.
Flowers learned of the scholarship through www.fastweb.com, an online scholarship search engine. In her application essay, Flowers identified Diane Gonzalez, her English and reading teacher at St. Mary’s for the Deaf, as the person who most inspired her.
“I was an immature 12-year-old when I had Mrs. Gonzalez as my English teacher,” Flowers wrote. “As I continued to work with her, my reading, vocabulary and writing skills have improved. Not only those, my leadership skills and I as a person have grown. When I have doubts in myself, she would always be there for me, encouraging me and pushing me along the way.”
Gonzalez also encouraged Flowers to join the yearbook staff as a freshman. She served as the yearbook editor the past two years.
Wherever she goes to school, Flowers plans to study business administration. But she hasn’t decided what to do beyond school.
“I don’t plan my life that far, because life doesn’t always go the way you plan it,” she said, adding that she wants to continue working at Wegmans and become “the top boss” or open her own bakery.
Both Flowers and her brother were born deaf, the only ones in their family. She received the gift of hearing when she was 5 years old with a cochlear implant in her left ear. She added one to her right ear when she was 15. Without them, she couldn’t hear a thing. With them, she likes to listen to country and pop music, especially Sugarland and Adele.
Never one to let her disability slow her down, Flowers competes in tennis, basketball, track and volleyball. She was the point guard for the St. Mary’s for the Deaf team that won the Eastern Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association championship two years ago and served as the captain of the Cheektowaga Central girls tennis team this past fall.
“She was a unanimous pick,” said tennis coach Jason Krasinski, who taught Flowers in ninth grade and suggested she come out for the tennis team. “The girls rallied around her. She’s very outgoing, motivated and a good athlete.”
Away from the sports world, Flowers is also a member of the Academic Bowl, National Honor Society, Junior National Association of the Deaf, Drama Club and yearbook staff, and is the president of her class at St. Mary’s.
“I do face obstacles because of my deafness, but I have always found ways to overcome them,” she said. “By participating in different clubs and activities, I have proven that people can do anything. You just have to set your mind, and you’ll be able to accomplish anything in life.”
(Story ideas for this feature can be sent to Cheektowaga Bee Editor Matt Krueger, Bee Publications, 5564 Main St., Williamsville, NY 14221-5410 or call 204-4915.)