The #OrganycUSAuthentic series shares stories of motivated, ambitious women throughout the USA, who overcome obstacles to then give back to the community. Riley is a motivated teen, who meets the challenges her disability presents, speaks openly about them, and dances her way straight to the finals.
Meet Riley, currently a sophomore at Sparkman High School, in Harvest, AL. She is a member of Sparkman Varsity Dance, ranked Top 10 in the nation in 2017 and 2018 in Medium Varsity hip hop; state champs in hip hop; and regional champs in hip hop and pom. Born deaf, Riley received cochlear implants to help her hear: the first one right before she turned 2, and the second one when she was 5. Cochlear implants do not amplify sound like regular hearing aids, rather, they reproduce sound so that Riley is able to hear like a person with normal hearing. She had to attend years of speech therapy to teach her to understand what she was hearing, so that she could learn to speak.
Riley teaches herself dances by watching videos and kills it on the dance floor.
Riley’s passion for dance, fueled by her mom and Mawmaw, her dance teachers and coaches started in her 5th year of dance at the Heidi Knight Studio of Dance. She was in 5th grade, and knew it was perfect for her.
However, it hasn’t always been easy.
When she made the middle school dance team in 7th grade, she realized that some people quit talking to her, and thought it was because no one likes people with disabilities on sports teams. During her freshman year on the varsity dance team, she was always in the back row while others got to move to new spots. Her coach always said “don’t take corrections personally,” but considering the extreme extra effort she had to put into learning the dance routines and concentrating on hearing the music, she was often discouraged. She thought they wanted her to quit because of her hearing loss.
Despite various setbacks, Riley’s determination enabled her to overcome these difficult moments. She is extremely vocal about her hearing loss and never misses an opportunity to try to inform people about her deafness and how her cochlear implant processors help her hear. Sometimes, she may have a slight problem when her batteries die, especially when they die in the middle of dance practice. Because she has two processors, she is able to continue with one, and quickly change the batteries of the other one during a break.
A huge fan of Taylor Swift and BTS, Riley’s role model is her Mom Tiffani, who is there for her every single day. They make a formidable team and her mom constantly reminds Riley, “Always do something you love, and do what you love before it’s too late.” Riley admires professional dancers- she would love to become one when she grows up, and BTS, because they ignore the haters and just get out there and follow their passion. Riley says that being a teenage girl is hard because you go through so many obstacles in those years. When we asked Riley to recommend a product for teenagers with sensitive skin, she said, “My skin changes through the month. Right now I use a micellar makeup remover. And sunscreen when I’m in the sun.”
Despite her young age, Riley has set a series of objectives for her life. She already knows that she wants to graduate as a Registered Nurse, so she decided to focus on working towards that goal by taking the Medical Academy track in high school. She also hopes to have her own dance studio someday, as she never intends to give up her greatest passion.
We are quite certain that whatever Riley sets her mind to accomplishing…she will be unstoppable!
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