When LIFE participant Olivia Vendola was presented a college diploma this past spring, it was one of her happiest moments.
Olivia, who has been deaf since birth, enrolled at Cape Cod Community College in the fall of 2012 and earned her associate’s degree in May. Wearing a graduation cap decorated with a picture of Pixar’s Dory and the words “just keep swimming,” it was a day she will never forget.
As a young child, Olivia, who grew up in Centerville, worked with a specialist in auditory/oral teaching, who helped her to master English as her first language, rather than sign language. With the help of hearing aids, she learned to talk and listen by using what hearing she had. She also received a cochlear implant (a tiny computer chip in her inner ear) that allows her to hear better. She attended Barnstable Public Schools and was able to succeed in mainstream classes thanks to the one-on-one support of the specialist.
At Cape Cod Community College, she was able to understand each lesson and successfully pass her classes with the help of assistive listening devices, including a microphone positioned on each instructor that was connected to her receiver.
Olivia lives with a roommate in Mashpee and has taken full advantage of all of LIFE’s fitness and social offerings. She participates in recreation nights, socials, activity days, community meals, Special Olympics, Zumba and more. In her spare time, she also enjoys embroidery, reading and writing stories.
“I’m proud to be a native Cape Codder,” said Olivia. “I like the balance of being independent and being close to my parents.”
Her case worker, Ginny Palmer, has been a guiding force in her life.
“She helps me with making friends, cooking better foods and having better communication,” said Olivia.
Olivia has working at Whole Foods Market in Hyannis since the store opened in 2014. Before that, she was working as an intern and data entry operator at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum. In 2011, while working at the museum, she was honored as the “commanding officer for a day” of the USS Constitution. It was a thrill, especially since she is so passionate about maritime history.