Deaf student wins school's first Female Athlete of the Year Award

The school year is nearly over, and Grade 12 student Le Yi Deng is being recognized for more than just her academics.

Deng is the first deaf student to win the Female Athlete of the Year Award at Burnaby South Secondary B.C. Provincial School for the Deaf for playing in several sports this year.

And she wants students to know that being deaf doesn't determine what you can or cannot do.

"I wanted to do everything that I could before I graduated, I didn't want to regret not doing everything that I could," Deng says.

She runs cross-country and track, wrestles, dances, plays volleyball, basketball and ultimate frisbee.

Making time for team practices and games was a challenge, but Deng says she figured out how to balance her responsibilities.

"I organized myself and my homework to make sure that I was doing everything without feeling overwhelmed and to make sure that I handed in all my homework."

Evan Mitsui

In Grade 4, Deng was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, which causes deafness and progressive vision loss, which meant that she would also gradually lose her sight.

At the time, she decided she would stop playing sports. But once she entered high school, she couldn't deny her love of athletics, so she jumped into it.

She says not everyone at her school believed in her abilities to thrive in sports, so she was determined to prove them wrong.

"I really want to prove my worth and my skill..you don't need to be able to speak in order to fully participate in these teams or these sports. Body language is so valuable," says Deng.

She began advocating for herself, and asking the coach to communicate with her in writing and using gestures as opposed to speaking.

"You should try your best regardless, if you think it's hard or not."

Deng wants to attend Vancouver Community College in the fall, and then transfer to the University of British Columbia to prepare for law school.