“Could you please repeat that?”
After listening to the lengthy list of Jeremy Schilling’s accomplishments, even those with perfect hearing might need to hear it again.
Jeremy, 15, a junior at El Dorado High School in Placentia, has been hearing-impaired since age 3, when a high fever left him without half the normal capacity.
But except for occasional trouble in catching the subtleties of a conversation, Jeremy has triumphed over his disability. In the past year he has achieved both of his lifelong goals: becoming an Eagle Scout and earning a black belt in karate.
Jeremy says he lives three lives. “There’s the martial arts Jeremy who’s nothing but self-defensive--the Jean Claude Van Damme type. Then there’s the Boy Scout Jeremy Schilling who’s 100% a Boy Scout. Then there’s the Jeremy Schilling--the home type.”
At 7, motivated by martial arts movies, Jeremy enrolled in a martial arts class. After receiving his brown belt in 1990, he joined American Martial Arts Academy in Fullerton and became an instructor to some of the 109 students.
A few months ago Jeremy participated in a tournament to earn his black belt. Judges asked Jeremy to perform basic techniques and exercises. Then, for three minutes, he sparred with students of other belts. Finally, to the dismay of his mother, Diane Schilling, who had just strolled into the studio, Jeremy sparred with four black belts simultaneously, a grueling test of stamina.
Jeremy has overcome his disability so well that most of the other students do not even realize he has one, says Brad Wenneberg, Jeremy’s instructor. “He’s vital for this studio,” Wenneberg said. “He has taken what he’s learned and has freely given it back to the students.”
Reaching the highest level of Boy Scouts was another test of maturity that Jeremy sailed through. Only 2% of all Scouts ever reach that rank, and the number of Eagle Scouts with disabilities is infinitesimal.
He entered scouting at age 6 when he joined the Tiger Cubs, the youngest unit of the Boy Scouts of America. After becoming a member of Troop 780 five years later, he began to blaze his six-year trail to Eagle, culminating with a court of honor ceremony in April.
To fulfill his project necessary to achieve his Eagle rank, Jeremy, with help from his fellow Scouts, repainted the parking lot curbs at the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District offices. Jim Adamson, Scoutmaster of Troop 780 for the past two years, said that Jeremy has done his duty like any other Scout.
“He’s put his nose to the grindstone, and he’s done the job,” Adamson said, adding that Jeremy’s disability is “a non-issue. He doesn’t expect any special privileges. He provides a good example as to impairments’ not getting in the way of achieving his goals.”
Copying a simple cartoon character in elementary school propelled Jeremy into the world of drawing, which he continues to roam. After drawing the cover of a flyer for his junior high school band, a teacher submitted his work to World Around You, a magazine published by and for the hearing-impaired. Jeremy was paid to do artwork for six editions of the magazine.
In the spare time he has left, Jeremy plays the guitar, a hobby he picked up just this spring.
Jeremy’s current goal is acting. After completing a beginning drama class at El Dorado High, he won both the most improved and best actor awards.
Although he credits his mother with helping him excel, she insists the real motivating force is within Jeremy.
“He’s done a lot on his own,” she said. “I encouraged him not to give up. I really knew he could do it.”