Santa Clarita resident Angela Fabian has never faced a challenge she couldn’t overcome, working hard through life to ensure that not even her hearing loss could stop her.
Now, the 19-year-old wants to help others break through their own barriers, too.
It was only when Fabian was a little over a year old that her mother, Helena Marquez, discovered that she was bilateral sensorineural deaf.
“As a mom, I could literally feel the building crashing down on me,” Marquez said.
And because Fabian was born in the Philippines, her mother struggled to find adequate care.
“In the Philippines, disabilities aren’t really accepted,” Marquez said, adding that she even made flyers to raise funds to send Fabian to a special school two hours away in Manila. “So, it was really a struggle until she finally had an opportunity to come (to the U.S.)”
Marquez fought for her daughter, and was able to acquire a medical visa for Fabian to travel to the U.S. to receive her first cochlear implant when she was 5.
But because Marquez was not granted a visa to accompany her, Fabian bounced from family to friends while getting her first implant, only to return to the Philippines to await the second.
After Fabian received her second cochlear implant at age 7, the family was finally able to move to the U.S. permanently, and now, Fabian not only uses sign language to communicate but also can hear and speak English.
“I just put (the device) on, and all I need to do is make sure the volume is working,” Fabian said. “I can hear really clearly.”
It was then that Fabian found herself saddled between the hearing and deaf community, discovering it was difficult to fit into either.
“It was challenging for me to hold on to both worlds,” Fabian said. “It was very difficult for me to advocate for myself, and it was uncomfortable, so I wanted to see if I could break that barrier.”
Fabian enrolled in the College NOW! program at College of the Canyons as a junior in high school, fast-tracking her road to college.
She then graduated high school during the pandemic, and though disappointed she couldn’t thoroughly enjoy her senior year, she said being the first-ever graduation sign-language speaker for the Golden Valley High School class of 2020 ceremony was an honor.
“It was cool to see I could leave a legacy,” she added.
Now just a year later, Fabian is already a junior at California State University, Northridge, and in her spare time, Fabian continues to work to expand awareness.
“I want to give back to the community that raised me … with the help that I needed,” Fabian said.
As many of her teachers’ first hard-of-hearing student, Fabian enjoyed working with them to educate them, and she continues to advocate for herself by doing community service and joining organizations, such as becoming a peer advisor at CSUN.
“Now that I’m in college, I have to work extra hard compared to everybody else to accomplish what I need,” she added.
Even so, Fabian has decided to enter the medical field, with the goal of serving the deaf community and paving the way for others like her.
“I never met a deaf or hard-of-hearing health professional in California, so my goal is to continue to break the barriers in STEM majors by encouraging others to join me … because I want to be that person that I never had as a kid,” Fabian said. “I’m not afraid to raise awareness that the stigma … does not have to always be this way to block us from creating a diverse world.”
Choosing this path has been difficult and scary, but Fabian has enjoyed the challenge of working harder to show the world what she can do and she’s proud of what she’s been able to accomplish thus far.
Fabian’s sign language interpreter, Nicole Pollard, who worked with her for six years while she was in the William S. Hart Union High School District, said it was a privilege to see her grow up, going from a shy seventh-grader to a confident young woman.
“During her time at Golden Valley, she worked so hard,” Pollard said. “She really doesn’t ever give excuses. She just sets a goal, and she goes for it — that’s just always been how she has taken on life and her ‘disability,’ which I don’t even consider a disability, and I don’t think she does either, truthfully. … I have tremendous respect for her.”
Pollard has been not only proud of Fabian, however, but also even inspired by her. Though she’d only needed her associate’s degree to be a sign language interpreter, Fabian inspired her to go back to school to get her bachelor’s in sociology.
“She was like, ‘You should go. Why wouldn’t you go, Ms. Pollard?’” Pollard said. “It was funny — she was like my biggest cheerleader. … I seriously attribute it to Angela … (telling me to) stop making excuses and get it done.”
Golden Valley Principal Sal Frias also describes Fabian as an outstanding young woman.
“She didn’t let anything hold her from attaining her goals, and she just came to school every day with a great attitude,” Frias said. “She actually graduated (high school) with a year of college under her belt. … A lot of kids don’t do that, period, but she went above and beyond.”
Fabian credits her success to these mentors, along with many more family and friends, who have helped guide her along the way.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them,” Fabian said.
Teens like Fabian help to raise awareness for hearing loss and the cochlear implant technology available today that can help address it, said Chris Bingham, vice president of global marketing for Valencia-based Advanced Bionics. “People like Angela and their indomitable spirit are what inspires us at Advanced Bionics to continue pushing the limits of technology so that hearing loss doesn’t have to stop anyone from achieving their full potential.”
It’s because of how much she’s seen Fabian struggle and work hard that her mother is so proud of her achievements, Marquez said.
“I didn’t even think she’d be able to call me ‘Mom,’” Marquez said, adding that it’s been incredible to watch her persevere throughout her life. “She didn’t let anyone pull her down.”
And for Fabian, her dreams and aspirations remain the same: inspire anyone and everyone she can to do the same: “It’s such a privilege and an honor to spread awareness that anyone can do anything.”