Lifestyle & Human Interest

Thanks to Student-Led Fundraising Campaign, Beloved Teacher Can Hear Again


If you had to give up one of your five senses, which would it be? It’s an uncomfortable question that often comes up in get-to-know-you scenarios, as the choice and reasoning for that choice tell you a lot about someone.

Many say their sense of smell or taste, but those two senses are intertwined and a world without either could be dangerous or at best boring (though you might be able to make healthier food choices if everything tasted the same).

For many people, sight is indispensable, especially for people who use their vision for a living. Likewise, those whose worlds revolve around music would hate to lose their hearing — and yet that’s exactly what was happening to Tri-County Junior-Senior High School band teacher Jeremy Sterk in White County, Indiana.

“I’d sit in a meeting and panic because I couldn’t hear anything,” Sterk told WLFI-TV. “You could see the frustration on people’s faces.”

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Sterk has struggled with hearing issues his whole life, but had managed through the use of hearing aids. The ones he had were no longer cutting it, and the price of the set he’d need made them a nearly impossible luxury, especially because insurance wouldn’t help in this case.

“Because of my job and because of the hearing loss that I have, it was also not just any hearing aids that would do it,” Sterk explained. “Took some higher-end adjustments and things like that.”

“It was going to be roughly about $4,600 to get them. So it was just not something we could afford.”

Thankfully, Sterk has made a positive impact on the people around him, and some students started formulating a plan to help their teacher hear better than he ever had before.

It was students through the Tri-County Business Professionals of America who got the ball rolling, according to the Herald Journal. They reached out to various organizations for donations and then raised the rest themselves.

“It was really surprising with how much they were,” Zachary Gretencord, another student, said of the hearing aids. “I didn’t really realize how expensive hearing aids were.”

“When we found out how much they were I think it was kind of a no-brainer that we needed to do something as an organization to help him out and get him what he rightfully deserved.”

“When staff and community members heard what we were doing, they donated another $1,350,” student Maddie Musser said. “Then we had a bake sale and raised $2,115.82. As of today we raised $4,620.82 toward his hearing aids. With the extra we raised, he now can go to an audiologist and get his hearing aids specialized to his needs.”

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To say Sterk was surprised would be an understatement. There were tears and deep gratitude.

“The look on (Sterk’s) face when we told him he could see an audiologist for his hearing aids was absolutely priceless, and the tears streaming down Mrs. Sterk’s face will forever be remembered,” Shelby Schamback, another involved student, said. “This activity made us realize what a great community we live in.”

“Well today was a life changing day,” Sterk posted on Facebook on Feb. 10. “I am not sure where to begin. I will say more when I can put the words together, but today thanks to the work of some amazing students I got hearing aids. A huge thank you to the Tri-County BPA for making this possible. I can never say thank you enough.”

Once he was fitted with the new pair of hearing aids, a whole new world opened up to Sterk, and so many new experiences lie before him.

“I heard my wife’s coat moving and I was like, what is that noise?” he said. “I hadn’t heard that. So it’s amazing.”

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