Meet Rachel, a 2019 Graeme Clark Scholarship winner!
Name: Rachel Knobel
University: University of Delaware
Major: Doctorate in physical therapy
Sound Processor: Cochlear™ Nucleus® 6, bilateral
Rachel’s hearing journey
Rachel was born deaf, and although the cause was never determined, she was fortunate that doctors identified her hearing loss early on.
“My parents met a surgeon who educated them about the process,” Rachel said.
First Rachel was fitted with hearing aids, but they didn’t give her the level of sound she needed.
After that, her parents decided to pursue a cochlear Implant. Rachel received an implant on her right side when she was 18 months old, and 10 years later (when she was in 5th grade) she received an implant on her left side.
Rachel said she is grateful that she had a positive experience going to school with cochlear implants.
“Having grown up with cochlear implants it was just part of me, part of who I am,” she said. “All my classmates knew and they were very supportive, they made me feel normal.”
She said that although her hearing loss factored into things such as seating charts, she never felt limited by it.
“I grew up playing sports such as soccer, tennis, and martial arts,” Rachel said. “I played instruments too. I never felt limited by my hearing loss and I think that’s due to the encouragement of my parents, teachers, and friends.”
Choosing her path
Rachel’s love of sports sparked a love of movement and helping people—which is how she discovered what she wanted to study and practice professionally.
“I realized I have a passion for working with people in a very hands-on way,” she said. “I grew up in sports and love to be physically active.”
Everything clicked into place when she realized she could combine those two interests into a career in physical therapy.
“I want to help people learn how to move and use their bodies efficiently,” Rachel said.
Although she currently spends most of her time studying, in her free time she enjoys yoga, running, hanging out with friends, and watching Netflix®.
Receiving the Graeme Clark Scholarship
Rachel said she was incredibly excited to find out she had been selected for the Graeme Clark scholarship.
“Completing the application this year felt really easy because I was writing about something I cared about,” she said. “Everything has been lining up and this was the cherry on top.”
She said she loves to see how cochlear implants help other people, too.
“I was at the store the other day and someone was wearing cochlear implants and chatting away,” Rachel recalled. “It gives me an appreciation for the fact that someone could be born without hearing, and technology, as incredible as it is, has really helped them fulfill their potential.”
Rachel said she is also grateful her hearing loss was identified early so she was able to receive her first cochlear implant quickly.
“Learning how to hear with my second implant was hard, and it just gives me that perspective,” she said. “I was very fortunate when I was young, and I want to take advantage of that and not let anything hold me back.”
Finding her inspiration
Rachel said she is continually inspired by the people who strive to improve the world around them.
“I’ve always tried to surround myself with people who are motivated to make a change, who make me think about the world from a bigger perspective,” she said.
She added that those people are often the ones who make a tangible impact.
“They’re people who aren’t just keeping their head down and doing their work, but who look up and do something and want to make the world a better place,” she said.
Advice for others
Rachel’s advice for individuals with cochlear implants is to celebrate it as part of their identity.
“When I was growing up I wouldn’t wear my hair up very often because I knew people could see my cochlear implants, and I didn’t want them to look at me weirdly,” she said. “Now I’d say embrace it, it’s part of who you are.”
She added that it’s important to ask for help when you need it.
“Vouch for yourself when you need to,” she said. “If you need accommodations, speak up.”
The Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship is a unique award open to Cochlear™ Nucleus® Implant recipients. It honors academic achievement and a demonstrated commitment to the Cochlear ideals of leadership and humanity.
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