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A Star is Born

Our son, Phoenix, is a born artist. He has always been passionate about film and television. He has a mature sense of analyzing film as an art and dives deep into each genre. He watches and researches all types of film—foreign, classics, the ‘80’s, etc.—and loves to be challenged about the medium.

Written by: Lexi Logan

Our son, Phoenix, is a born artist. He has always been passionate about film and television. He has a mature sense of analyzing film as an art and dives deep into each genre. He watches and researches all types of film—foreign, classics, the ‘80’s, etc.—and loves to be challenged about the medium. This past summer, AG Bell made it possible for him to participate in an online film study with Columbia University’s Pre-College Program. This is the film he created through that grant: You Are My Son.

When he was a young child, we encouraged that artistic side of him. He was exposed to some awesome creative collaborations at a young age: my husband, Andrew, is a sculptor, and I am a painter and photographer, and we rent out studios on our property to other artists. Phoenix was even cast in a few commercials and plays when he was younger.

Our little artist, however, had also failed the newborn hearing screening. When we heard this, we were very confused. No one in our family was deaf, and we knew very little about hearing loss. When Phoenix was six weeks old and had undergone multiple hearing tests, doctors confirmed that he had moderate to severe hearing loss. He was fitted with hearing aids and wore them for two years.

We worked closely with the John Tracy Clinic during his childhood. When he was 2, we went to California to visit the clinic and the specialists there did a hearing test in the booth. They discovered that Phoenix had experienced additional hearing loss and that the aids weren’t helping him. His hearing was then rated as severe to profound loss. We quickly pivoted to cochlear implant research. Phoenix received his implants at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the first at 2 ½ and the second at 5.

Phoenix has been mainstreamed in public school since the beginning. There were thousands of hours of speech and auditory verbal therapy. I dedicated much of my time to helping him listen and speak. After around age 9 he really took off as an independent learner. He tested out of speech in 4th grade and really just exploded!

In addition to commercials and plays, Phoenix was featured in CHOP’s calendar and on the wall of a permanent installation. He filmed some promotions for CHOP and went to the gala in Philadelphia as a featured child. AG Bell granted him financial aid each summer for arts camps. He was exposed to so much every summer because of AG Bell. Last year, he participated in AG Bell’s Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT) program, which was amazing.

It wasn’t always so smooth. Middle school was a challenging time for Phoenix. He grew his hair out long so people couldn’t see his implants. He refused all school support for his deafness and didn’t want to draw attention to himself for any reason. He gave up acting, and his academics were not great.

Slowly, over the next few years, Phoenix had a real awakening. He just seemed to tell himself that he knew he could do better, and he went for it. Giving more, and worrying less. His grades started to pick up and he was accepted into honors classes. Now he has two Advanced Placement classes. He has a great group of friends. He’s had a 4.0 GPA for the last two years, plus a very busy load of media production work. He’s even taken on after-school jobs – first at a country club cleaning golf carts, then at a ramen noodle shop last year, and he works on our farm mowing lawns, too.

He has been hired by the school district to shoot and edit every football game video last year and again this year. He’s even being paid this year. The district is asking him and his film partner to make a documentary about the teams and make hype videos for the school body. He really enjoys it. He also volunteers in our town, shooting and producing Music Under Mainstreet, which benefits musicians.

We are helping him to decide what his next moves are. At the top of the list is New York University for film. He’s working hard to make this a reality. He has so much he wants to achieve, and is desperate to be challenged. There is a deep storyteller inside of him, and he is ready to emerge.

Please let us continue to help young people like Phoenix fulfill their potential. To donate, please visit; www.agbell.org/Donate

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