Oklahoma's Own: Disability Turns Into Opportunity For Ft. Gibson Student

Tuesday, February 22nd 2011, 3:40 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

FORT GIBSON, Oklahoma -- One Oklahoma girl isn't letting a developing disability slow her down.

In fact, it's now opening the door for an incredible opportunity.

News On 6 anchor Craig Day first met Cheyanne Olson after she was injured in 2009. During an ice training exercise at a mountaineering camp she slid down a glacier and had to be airlifted to safety.

8/5/2009 Related Story: Camp Turns Frightening For Ft. Gibson Student

When the News On 6 interviewed her, she had recovered from her injuries.  No one knew then that she would later develop an unrelated medical condition.

"It's a progressive disease," she said.

Olson has an impairment called Bilateral Endolymphatic Hydrops.  She produces too much cerebral spinal fluid and it builds up in her ears, which causes hearing loss.

It will likely get progressively worse as time goes on.

"I play music, and I'm going to be losing my music, that's probably the worst because I love it. It's something I do everyday," Olson said.

Despite the gradual loss of her hearing, Olson is facing the disability head on.  She's a great student and the hearing impairment is actually leading to a great opportunity.

The Fort Gibson senior was selected to take part in the Rochester Institute of Technology National Science Fair for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students.

She's the only student selected from Oklahoma.

"I'm happy because I get to share my science project with other deaf and hard of hearing kids and see what they do with their disability," she said. "It's kind of a reassuring feeling."

Her selection was based on an extensive science project she did over two years on salmon habitat in Oregon; testing the water, mapping streams and documenting the condition of salmon beds.

It's pretty amazing stuff for a high school senior and impressive how the Harvard hopeful is turning a loss, into an opportunity.

"The more positive you think about it, you realize that there are people out there with the same problem, the more accepted you feel," she said.

Cheyanne Olson has already been accepted to the University of Tulsa, but also recently interviewed with Harvard recruiters, so she hopes to attend Harvard after her high school graduation.