celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news

Grad bests disabilities

Student unstoppable after hearing restored

By Brenda Bernet

Cara Johnson overcame disabilities in her hearing and vision to sing in the varsity choir at Caprock High School, take advanced classes and learn fencing.

The 18-year-old senior will graduate from Caprock May 30.

Johnson plans to attend West Texas A&M University for two years and then go to the University of Houston. She plans to obtain a master's degree and become an occupational therapist.

"I wanted to help other people deal with their disabilities and overcome their disabilities," Johnson said.

Johnson was born with moderate to severe deafness and is legally blind in one eye, her mother, Carrie Johnson, said. Carrie discovered her daughter had a hearing problem when she started day care at age 3.

"She couldn't talk like all the other kids," Carrie said. "It was like the volume was turned down."

Cara's hearing was affected by fusion of the bones in her ears, so hearing aids helped her, her mother said.

Cara's young peers were rather curious about the devices in her ears and would often ask questions, her aunt, Crissie Wisdom, said. Cara told them matter of factly that she needed them to hear.

"There was too much going on to miss anything," Cara said.

Cara went through the Regional Education Program for the Deaf through the seventh grade, when she had surgery to correct her hearing. The surgery meant she no longer needed hearing aids.

"I could just wake up in the morning and know what was going on," Cara said. "I can swim, and I could hear."

Cara said the education program for the deaf helped her with reading and provided interpreters, but once she could hear, she did what others said she would not. She exited the program and will go to college without the need of an interpreter, she said.

After she withdrew from the education program for the deaf in middle school, Cara began taking advanced classes.

"She just took off," her mother said.

High school gave Cara the opportunity to learn about subjects that interested her, she said.

"I enjoy learning new things," she said.

Cara enjoyed music, so she joined the choir and spent all four years at the varsity level.

"I had to learn to hear pitch and sing right," Cara said.

Cara enjoyed going the choir trips to New Orleans; Branson, Mo.; South Padre Island; and Oklahoma City, she said.

In addition to choir, Cara has been a member of the National Honor Society and the Achievement through Commitment to Education Council. She took dual credit classes that have earned her college credit in math and English.

"She's such a good kid," Wisdom said. "The fact that she's overcome so much ... I have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. I hope they turn out as well as Cara."

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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