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Achieving against the odds

19 September 2005

Achieving against the odds

Jenny Pevreal, a hearing impaired wife, mother, farmer and fulltime A+ student, has been awarded the Quest for Excellence Scholarship for Deaf and hearing impaired New Zealanders to coincide with Deaf Awareness Week.

The $15,000 scholarship was established by the National Foundation for the Deaf and the Deaf Association of New Zealand for post-graduate study. Its purpose is to reward and inspire people whose hearing disability has meant they have had to overcome great odds.

Jenny Pevreal is currently studying for her Masters degree in clinical psychology with the aim of becoming a registered clinical psychologist and being able to help people with mental illness.

“I am honoured and excited to be the winner of the Quest for Excellence Scholarship. It feels wonderful to be recognised for my achievements. So often when people see you’re wearing two hearing aids, their attitude changes – you’re not important, you’re not intelligent and sometimes, you’re not even there.

“Apart from giving me the much needed financial boost to complete my studies, the scholarship has also provided an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges faced by 450,000 Deaf and hearing impaired New Zealanders everyday. I hope that I, together with future recipients, will inspire others to be optimistic and strive to achieve their goals.”

Jenny’s hearing loss was not detected until she was 20. She had struggled through school and university not always able to hear the teacher – especially male teachers as their voices are just below her level of hearing – but was determined to make the grade.

It wasn’t until work colleagues pointed out that perhaps she needed a hearing test, she found out she had a bilateral moderate congenital neural hearing loss. Hearing aids have opened up the world for her, although she says it takes a lot of energy and concentration to focus on ‘trying to hear’.

A distinguished mature student and high achiever Jenny has to her credit many accolades for her earlier work in horticulture, in particular for her research in to eliminating viruses from wine grape varieties. Among her awards, she received both the Winston Churchill Fellowship Award and the Royal Society Prince and Princess of Wales Science Award for research into virus elimination in wine grapes.

When on the point of returning to the workforce after full time motherhood, she realised her own personal experiences were a driving factor and turning point for moving out of sciences and into psychology.

Her empathy for people who are confronted with barriers together with a prolonged recovery period after a major car accident made her realise there are so many people who have to depend on others to survive. Once her studies at the University of Waikato are complete, Jenny is looking forward to contributing to improving the lives of others in the same way that others have assisted and inspired her.

As part of her personal growth, Jenny has had a 20 year long fascination with studying sacred languages, exploring Sanskrit, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Arabic and Maori texts, scriptures, prayers and sayings. She attends weekly nightclasses and weekend workshops regularly.

As well as juggling the multiple demands of family, farming and her challenging studies, Jenny makes time to fundraise for her son’s school, is a senior teacher with the Foundation for Higher Learning Charitable Trust and a member of the Hearing Association.

Marianne Schumacher, executive manager of the National Foundation for the Deaf said the aim of the scholarship was to reward and inspire New Zealand’s Deaf and hearing impaired achievers whose hearing disability has meant they have had to overcome great odds.

“Because hearing loss is an invisible disability, it goes without saying that all Deaf and hearing impaired people have faced inevitable challenges over and above the average person to obtain their degree,” said Ms Schumacher. “The aim of this scholarship is to reward excellence and encourage these people to pursue their dreams.

“Jenny is a highly intelligent, talented woman who has clearly demonstrated a determination to excel and an incredible enthusiasm for living, learning and helping others.”

The scholarship will be awarded on an annual basis and is open to Deaf and hearing impaired citizens or permanent residents of New Zealand who have an undergraduate degree and plan to embark on postgraduate study. This could be in any field, including the arts, science, fine art, music or otherwise.

ENDS

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