“If you think of a piano, I only hear one octave.” It seems unconventional that someone who is deaf would describe her hearing in relation to an instrument, but Emma Faye Rudkin isn’t your average student.

At only 19, Rudkin has already accomplished much more than her peers that aren’t disabled. At an early age, her parents decided to keep her in the “speaking world” instead of enrollment in a School for the Deaf and learning sign language, which seems to have paid off. Vice President of the National Honor Society, Cheer Captain, Prom Queen and high school Honor graduate are just some of the recent barriers she’s broken. She’s even been crowned Miss San Antonio 2015, becoming the first deaf woman to win the award.

Even with all of these accolades, Rudkin’s number one love goes back to music. “I was never afraid of anything, so I went out and learned how to play music and started signing up for school plays,” stated Rudkin. “I feel music and play through vibrations. I speak by knowing the placement of my mouth after years of speech therapy.”

Looking back, Rudkin never expected to get to where she is now in life. Often teased for her accent and hearing aid, Rudkin’s confidence dipped low at a young age. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to amount to anything,” recounts Rudkin. “That’s how bad my insecurities were.”

Instead of despairing about her disability, Rudkin instead decided to celebrate it, creating the “#ShowYourAids” campaign to rehabilitate the image of hearing aids, which Rudkin describes as a badge of honor to tell people of her story.

The campaign reached viral success, with stars such as Derrick Coleman, the first deaf offensive player in the NFL, participating by sharing a picture of his hearing aids. Empowered by the movement, Emma heard countless stories through social media of children finally finding the confidence to wear their aids or tell their friends about their hearing loss.

Beyond the campaign, Rudkin has also started Aid the Silent, a non-profit organization that uses donations to help the deaf community and divides its functions into four parts: deaf research, deaf education, deaf resources and deaf ministry. Closest to her heart is deaf ministry, or teaching the deaf about God, which helped her heal emotionally and taught her confidence in herself.

“I met Jesus when I was 14, and I realized he took away something that the world considered valuable in order so that I could hear him,” explained Rudkin about her divine intervention. She felt the need to share her story on a large platform, speaking out during her Miss San Antonio pageant about her disability and the ways it changed her life.

Although she attributes it as a great personal experience, Rudkin says she will wait at least a year before trying again to focus on her studies at UTSA. While majoring in Communications and planning to get her Masters in Deaf Education, Rudkin also plans to expand Aid the Silent, even organizing a 5K marathon in San Antonio this November where she plans to perform and run at the event.

Rudkin’s advice for anyone who will listen is to not be afraid of deep living. “Life is always deeper and more rich than you realize. The more you speak truth and peace and joy, the more you will find it,” proclaimed Rudkin. “We all have pain, and battles that can all be overcome and can become your platform to proclaim freedom for others.”

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