Caroline Schneider was born with mild hearing loss that progressively got worse.

She wore hearing aids in both ears as a child until getting cochlear implants, small devices that electrically stimulate the cochlear nerve (the nerve for hearing), surgically placed in each ear. The left one was implanted when she was 5 and the right one when she was 11.

As a preschooler Schneider attended the Atlanta Speech School’s Hamm Center in Buckhead, where she was in a class with other children with hearing loss and teachers who specialize in hearing loss education.

“The first five years of my life were defined by going to the school and learning how to deal with hearing loss, how to hear, basically, and to interact with other kids with hearing loss,” she said. “When I was 6 I transferred to the Epstein School.”

The Sandy Springs resident has come a long way since then, becoming The Weber School’s valedictorian for the class of 2020. The senior has a straight-A average and scored a combined 1550 on the SAT.

She is Weber’s Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) student for 2020, an honor given by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators to each school’s student whose standardized test score elevates him or her to the highest 10% of their senior class.

Schneider also earned the Georgia Certificate of Merit, an award that goes to each junior in the top 5% of his or her class based on their academic achievement through the first three years of high school.

She said it was disappointing to end her senior year by taking classes online from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially missing out on in-person interactions with teachers and fellow students.

“The biggest disappointment thus far has been surrounding graduation,” she said of the ceremony that was originally supposed to take place May 22. “High school graduation is a big life moment. Weber has decided to wait to have an in-person ceremony in June. So I’m excited and hopeful we’ll have an in-person ceremony because I think we’re all a little tired of the virtual learning and virtual experiences.

“We want to have something we can cherish more than the virtual events. I’m grateful to have the opportunities for technology so I can go to virtual school and learn virtually. But at the same time, it (would) definitely been disappointing to not have (an in-person) graduation.”

Olivia Rocamora, who has taught Schneider in English and/or Spanish classes all four years of high school, said she is very smart but also has social and human intelligence.

“Caroline has incredible insight but also this ability to know when to step back and respect her peers in having the spotlight,” she said. “She’s really humble. She’s savvy and understands the human intelligence. … We have this slogan at the school: ‘head, heart, hand.’ So it’s developing those three areas of your life. There’s so much emphasis on college applications and it’s easy to focus on those, but she’s the balance of all three.”

Rocamora said as a sophomore Schneider went on a school trip to Spain, where she shined.

“It was a pretty hard program for younger kids and it required speaking in Spanish,” she said. “We were in a rural town and the seniors sat behind (the group), and she just stepped up and talked to this baker we were interviewing. She had this amazing experience where she took risks and didn’t have all the conjugations right. Her ability to take risks without knowing the outcome has made her grow as much as she has as a young woman.”

Schneider, who will attend the University of Georgia on a Foundation Fellow scholarship in the fall, plans to major in political science and go to law school after she graduates. She has won some awards for her performances in high school mock trials, including outstanding attorney honors.

“I also have some other academic interests like criminal justice and Spanish,” she said, adding she may add those subjects as a minor or second major. “(As a career) I would be interested in prosecution or (representing) criminal defendants. I’ve been really inspired by a lawyer named Bryan Stevenson. He was the author of a book, ‘Just Mercy.’”

Schneider, who plays tennis recreationally and previously played for Weber, volunteers at the Atlanta Speech School. Looking back on her high school days, she said her fondest memories are “probably just the friends I’ve made.”

“I have a close group of friends who have been my friends all four years,” Schneider said. “We support each other academically and socially. I also have pretty fond memories in the classrooms. I have made some special connections with my teachers.”

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