VIDEO: Khalie Cleveland Overcomes Disability, Excels at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High School

By  //  December 3, 2017

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currently carrying a 4.0 GPA in Honors classes

SPACE COAST DAILY TV: As a very young girl, Khalie Cleveland loved music. In fact, she wanted to grow up to be a singer. And then the unthinkable occurred. Little six-year-old Khalie contracted spinal meningitis and lost her hearing, and just like that, she was deaf.

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BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Just about 18 years ago, a little girl was born in Brevard County. Because babies are born every day, that really is nothing out of the ordinary.

And, this young girl, Khalie Cleveland, was about as typical as you can imagine.

She had three siblings – a brother Nick and two sisters, Samantha and Jazmine. Khalie enjoyed being around her family. She loved watching her grandfather work on cars, and also enjoyed the outdoors – the sights and sounds that living on the Space Coast brings us on a daily basis.

As a very young girl, she loved music. In fact, she wanted to grow up to be a singer.

And then the unthinkable occurred. Little six-year-old Khalie contracted spinal meningitis and lost her hearing, and just like that, she was deaf.

The next two years were a blur for Khalie. She was in shock, had difficulty processing what had happened, and doesn’t remember anything that occurred during those two years.

It took the efforts of her first sign language teacher, Wendy Sanders, to get Khalie focused and moving forward. She helped Khalie catch up with her school work and motivated her to work hard.

Today, a student at Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High School, Khalie is now enjoying her senior year.

When asked what she has learned during her high school years, Khalie says, “I have really enjoyed my time at Cocoa Beach. I have learned how to be a leader. I have learned more about myself and have become confident in what I do.”

This year, Khalie is a member of the Cocoa Beach wrestling team, and she is the only girl on the team.

As a personal challenge, Khalie joined the wrestling team to push herself to the limit and gain confidence. She admits she was very nervous the first day of practice but has since worked extremely hard to improve and be the best wrestler she can be.

Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High Senior Khalie Cleveland, right, with Friday Night Locker Room’s Steve Wison, center, and sign language interpreter Marie Chmielewski.

Wrestling is not the only activity Khalie has participated in at the high school level. The list is rather lengthy and includes JROTC, a member of the Rifle Team and Honor Guard; Track and Field; Cheerleading; and playing basketball (she admits, with a laugh, that basketball is not her best sport!).

She would like to find a women’s rugby team to play on but has not been successful yet. It is obvious that Khalie loves a challenge.

Academically, Khalie is an outstanding student, is currently carrying a 4.0 GPA in Honors classes, and is also enrolled at Eastern Florida State College. Her favorite subject, anatomy, ties in with her interest in occupational therapy and psychology. Beaming with pride, Khalie recalls her Individual Oral Presentation (IOP) in her AP English Class.

It was the first time she used her voice instead of signing, and she received a perfect score! It was a momentous victory for her.
Navigating everyday life has been challenging for Khalie. She has had to battle discrimination, stating that many people do not see her for who she is and have formed opinions before getting to know her.

When talking about sounds, Khalie said, “I miss the sounds of things – things that brought peace to my life – the sound of children laughing; the waves at the beach; the wind; the leaves making noise as I walk on them.”

These are all sounds Khalie remembers as a six-year-old, but, unfortunately, has not heard since.

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Khalie wants to be an example for other people to follow. She says, “Instead of taking the path already taken, I am making my own because I want to be myself. I don’t want to be like someone else.”

She advises, “If you want to try something, try it! It may embarrass you, but keep trying. And with time, you will know whether you enjoy it or not. If you did not enjoy it, you did not waste your time, because you tried something new.”

Khalie is wise beyond her years. She has had to grow up with challenges that most of us could not imagine.

“Sometimes change is a good thing,” she said. “The biggest change in my life was losing my hearing. It made me open my eyes. It helped me to express more, and to enjoy things more, appreciate things more.”

When asked what makes her want to wake up every day she said, “My future, and the plans I have for my future.”

Khalie is destined for great success in life, and the reason is simple. She is a self-motivated, driven, dedicated individual and has not let her hearing impairment slow her down one bit. In fact, it has made her into the person she is today…one very special young lady.

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