Ayden Lewis delivers a speech during the Socorro High School graduation ceremony on May 21. He was named salutatorian and is the only hard-of-hearing student at SHS.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

When Ayden Lewis was 5 years old, he began to lose his hearing. Recently, he was named the salutatorian for Socorro High School’s Class of 2021.

Lewis said that his hearing loss is genetic and comes from his dad. He is hard-of-hearing and has a little hearing in his right ear, but is almost completely deaf in his left ear.

“I do remember not hearing anything at all and I remember them talking about whenever I got my first set of hearing aids, I was talking about how I could hear again,” he said. “Before I got hearing aids, I was so quiet — they thought I was just naturally quiet. Then, they told me I wouldn’t (stop talking).”

Being hard-of-hearing in a hearing school has come with its challenges for Lewis, as until his freshman year of high school, he used an FM system to hear what his teacher or classmates said.

Lewis said that the biggest challenge with the FM system was that his teachers would forget to turn it on and off. He was able to stop using it once he got better hearing aids.

“There weren’t that many challenges after getting off of the FM system,” Lewis said. “Sometimes there would be things that I missed, but a lot of times I could always get the notes from one of my friends or I could talk to the teacher or the teacher would post stuff on Google Classroom and I would be able to look at that.”

Lewis said that being hard-of-hearing also taught him how to find information he may have missed during class. He said how he would get notes from his classmates and friends, talked to the teacher after class, or did his own research. His friends would also send him photos of notes that he missed.

“Just all those skills I learned to find things I missed are pretty helpful now,” he said.

Now that Lewis has graduated from high school, he plans on attending Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He is looking into majoring in business finance, aeronautics business finance or aeronautic forensics.

“There’s just a whole bunch of stuff they have and I’m just trying to decide that right now,” he said. “I did pick a degree so that I could get my application finished and get accepted, which I did. Now, I have to figure out what degree I want now that I’m accepted.”

To help pay for his education, Lewis was awarded multiple scholarships from the Socorro Consolidated School District. He received the Clint Benjamin Scholarship, the NRAO Scholarship, NM Tech Copper Scholarship, the Socorro Electric Coop., Inc. Scholarship, the World War II Veterans Scholarship and the Salutatorian D Roy Baca Scholarship.

Ayden Lewis wrestles St. Michael’s Josh Wojahn during the state wrestling tournament on May 27. Lewis placed second in the 152-pound weight class after losing to Andres Grano from Robertson.Cameron Goeldner | Valencia County News Bulletin

Lewis said he gives credit to being on the wrestling team for being named salutatorian and for being accepted into Embry Riddle. He is planning on being a walk-on for the wrestling team at Embry Riddle. Athletes are required to have certain grades and if they are failing any classes, they are ineligible to compete in athletics.

Lewis said he worked very hard in school and even ahead sometimes to make sure there was “as little of a chance” of him being ineligible.

“Wrestling encouraged me to keep my grades up in school,” he said. “If it wasn’t for wrestling, I don’t think I would have been salutatorian. I don’t think I would have tried as hard in school as I did because that was the main thing that motivated me to keep my grades up.”

Lewis started on the wrestling team his freshman year after getting a haircut. His barber James McNeil is one of the wrestling coaches and encouraged him to join the team.

“I was venting to James about how I was getting bullied at school a lot and I just really hated it,” Lewis said. “He told me to do wrestling and that everything will fall into place.”

Lewis said that the bullying was so bad that he hated going to school and hoped that something would happen that would make him not have to go.

“After being on the wrestling team for a bit, I started putting on weight and I started learning to stand up for myself and just do all the things and I started developing the skills I really needed and I put on some muscle,” he said. “People stopped picking on me after that.”

Lewis did have one major challenge when it came to wrestling meets: wrestlers are not allowed to wear anything besides their headgear, which meant that Lewis was unable to wear his hearing aids. Without his hearing aids, he was unable to communicate with his coaches

during the meet.

Head coach Joel Partridge and Lewis came up with signs for a lot of the wrestling moves and the two of them stayed after a couple of practices so they could memorize them.

“Coach showed me a really huge accommodation that I definitely didn’t get from teachers, I’ve never gotten an accommodation like that from anyone else,” he said. “Joel, he came up with signs and we just worked together and memorized them so that we could communicate on the mat.”