When Chloe Keilers was born, she was unable to hear, and from 18 months old to her middle school years, she went through rigorous speech therapy at least three times a week.
Now, the Los Alamos High School graduate is set to attend Stanford University on scholarship this fall and recently represented New Mexico in the prestigious National Youth Science Camp.
At the three-week camp, 101 top high school graduates from the United States and four other countries attended lectures, learned about groundbreaking scientific research and participated in outdoor activities.
“I study (science) because it seems magical to me,” said Keilers, 18. “Being a little girl, I wanted magic to be real, and science is the next best thing. Humans, over the years, we have just scratched the surface compared to what’s unknown.”
She said she first became interested in science when she saw the movie “Back to the Future” as an 8-year-old.
“Ever since then I wanted to build a time machine,” she said. “I realize now that’s a little hard to do, so I’m more interested in other possibilities such as black holes and new technology.”
Keilers had to apply to represent New Mexico as a delegate at the NYSC summer camp, which she said was similar to submitting a college application. Two New Mexico students were selected, the other being Lilly Chiou of Carlsbad High School.
The camp in West Virginia helped Keilers break out of her shell and become more confident in her communication skills, something she describes as a lifelong struggle.
“People didn’t always know that I’m deaf, so I would have to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m deaf. I need your help,’ ” she said. “I’m usually terrible about telling people what I need, but this camp made me realize that there are so many things I want to participate in and I had to speak up.”
Keilers will move onto Stanford in the fall with a greater understanding of the possibilities of science, thanks to NYSC, she says. She plans to major in physics and possibly minor in computer science.
For the past year, she has interned at Los Alamos National Laboratory, working with other students and professionals. She also received the highest possible college scholarship award from the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund, as well as six other outside scholarships.
Her mother, Marjorie Keilers, says she is most proud of her daughter’s work ethic in improving her ability to communicate with others.
“She’s been getting speech therapy two, three, five times a week ever since we learned of her hearing loss,” she said. “Imagine a little 2-year-old having to work, work, work to acquire speech. All the hard work has really paid off.”
She now advocates for children who face the same adversity as she did growing up. She volunteers as a board member at Hands & Voices New Mexico, an organization that supports families with children who are deaf, where she speaks about her personal struggles and encourages people with hearing loss to reach their full potential.