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Area students earn 'Uncommon' distinction

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A pair of Corridor high school students are spending their summer trying to improve communication — one through music, the other through his personal experience dealing with hearing impairment.

Brady Lukavsky, 18, of Iowa City, and Austin Piper, 17, of Robins, are two of 15 Iowa high school seniors who have been awarded $1,500 for their work on a special project this summer. The funds come from the Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award, a scholarship program for Iowa high school juniors.

Piper, who is home-schooled and enrolled at Marion High School, is forming a jazz combo to play at nursing homes.

“Jazz was the popular music in past generations, and Iowa has a deeply rooted tradition in jazz and jazz education,” said Piper, the son of Dayna and Scott Piper. “This is the music that a lot of these people grew up listening to, so I want to give them something they can relate to.”

He thinks elderly Iowans will relate to the music.

“It will conjure up memories and they’ll say, ‘I remember’ where and when they heard it before,” said Piper, a saxophonist in the Marion band, show band and jazz band — “anything band related.”

“That’s the aim,” said Piper, who hopes his program becomes an annual outreach.

Lukavsky, a senior at West Branch where he plays football, basketball and baseball, wants to educate community groups, church groups and schools about the deaf culture “and the struggles of kids with hearing impairments or deafness.”

He’s found that in many communities, especially in rural Iowa, people may not encounter deaf and hearing-impaired people, and don’t know how to relate to them.

He’s preparing a PowerPoint presentation to share with those groups as well as lawmakers to help them understand the policy issues facing deaf Iowans. It incorporates parts of a presentation he prepared and shares with his teachers every year to make them aware of his needs.

In addition to educating them, Lukavsky wants to seek their help in “finding ways to solve the financial burdens of hearing aids and cochlear implants which are not covered by insurance.”

“No child should be without the best means of understanding the hearing world around them,” said Lukavsky, who has worn a cochlear implant for 12 years.

Lukavsky, who is in show choir and concert band, didn’t attend West Branch schools the first year after he moved there with his parents, Michelle and Josh Lukavsky, because of a lack of services.

“That opened his eyes to the inconsistency of policies and services,” said his mother, a special-education teacher in Cedar Rapids.

“This is important,” Brady Lukavsky said. “It’s a real challenge for me and my family because people don’t understand the struggles” facing deaf and hearing-impaired people.

“I want to increase awareness of what I go through every day,” he said.

The Hoover Uncommon Student program annually identifies and honors up to 15 Iowa high school juniors who propose and then accomplish a project of their own choosing and design. Grades, test scores, essays and financial need are not evaluated.

In October, they will present their work before a panel of judges and three will earn an additional $5,000 scholarship to the college or university of their choice.

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The next application deadline for the award is March 15, 2019. For more information about the program, contact Delene McConnaha at (319) 643-5327 or DMcConnaha@hooverPF.org.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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