Born profoundly deaf, Paul Hovan always struggled to find schools that would treat him like a capable student and provide the resources for him to learn. He and his family didn’t hold high hopes when, after years of frustration and even moving across country searching for supportive classrooms, they learned about a then new school called Canton Early College High School.
Their doubts proved to be unfounded. What they discovered at Canton Early College High School was a place where teachers didn’t consider Paul’s deafness an obstacle to his ability to work on a college level – an environment that launched him into the future they always believed he could have.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Paul’s mother, Shawana Hovan. One of only two deaf students in the early college high school, Paul was behind in several subjects, particularly those for which reading and writing were central. Having learned to communicate in American Sign Language, English was effectively a second language.“It has been and probably will continue to be a challenge for me. American Sign Language is completely different from English,” said Paul.
As a freshman, he was not yet constructing English sentences. But he was now in a school with an interpreter, tutors and committed educators.
From the moment that Canton Early College High School English teacher Debbie Turner met Paul, she never considered his deafness an obstacle.
“I never thought of Paul as not being capable – he was very fluent and articulate – I knew him from the very beginning as someone who was excited about the program and willing to learn,“ she said.
Paul’s parents believed that, given the proper environment and resources, their son possessed the abilities to engage and understand all of the subjects that any hearing child would. But throughout elementary and middle school, those bright spots were the exception, not the norm.Once he enrolled in Canton Early College High School and connected with teachers, Paul found his way to what he wanted to do. In his senior year, Paul won a national award for graphic arts for digital photography from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and was flown to visit its Rochester campus for a weekend, along with his family.
Paul was offered a scholarship to NTID as he logged his next major accomplishments – he earned a black belt in karate, his high school diploma and an associate degree from Stark State College.
Paul is grateful that he got to be one of the first 100 students to enter early college high school. “All the extra effort that the teachers, tutors and my parents put into helping me on that journey through early college high school and English has made it possible for me attend the college I wanted to.