A Columbus East High School student hopes to bring awareness to an important cause as part of her senior project.

Sophia Reynolds, who is deaf, said she plans to compete in a half-marathon next spring during the St. Jude Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee, to raise awareness for deaf culture and technology.

The idea to participate in a half-marathon was suggested by Megan Baker, a Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. teacher who works with deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Reynolds has worked with Baker during her time at East.

The pair plan to participate in the 13.1-mile marathon in Music City in April and started training for the event together earlier this summer by walking at different locations in Columbus.

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Reynolds, who lives with her grandmother, Vickie Reynolds, has overcome many challenges. At age 11, she could not read, write or even speak and attended the Indiana School for the Deaf, where her teachers described her as unreachable and likely suffering from an intellectual disability.

However, Vickie Reynolds said she decided to enroll Sophia at Southside Elementary School, where her granddaughter received support from educators there.

“We were blessed with some amazing teachers,” she said. “She’s had a lot of hurdles to overcome to learn as her peers are.”

Success eventually followed Sophia as she grew up and is now an honors student at Columbus East, a former member of the East swim team and an art student. She has been dancing at local dance studio Dance by Design for nearly seven years.

She especially enjoys Irish dancing, saying it allows her to be more social in a group.

She also is participating in an after-school sign language club she started at East during her junior year. The club started with 15 members, and Sophia hopes to engage more students in the after-school activity.

Vickie Reynolds said she’s hopeful local businesses will support Sophia’s efforts with any money raised going toward organizations such as the Starkey Hearing Foundation, an organization based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, that supports deaf and hard of hearing people.

Vickie Reynolds said she plans to establish a crowdfunding website on GoFundMe in the near future to start raising money. In addition, Sophia eventually plans to reach out to friends and neighbors for financial support as well.

“I’m hoping she will be a voice for the deaf and hard of hearing,” she said of Sophia’s efforts. “There is a purpose for Sophia to do this.”

Despite the challenges Sophia has faced, Vickie Reynolds said she’s proud of the progress she has made.

“I think what she has done is amazing,” she said.

And as far as what Sophia’s future after high school holds, that remains unclear at the moment, but she said she is considering a possible career in photography or fashion design. Her grandmother also plans to support whatever Sophia decides to do with her life.

“I don’t want people standing in her way or holding her back,” she said. “It’s my dream to help her because I know she’s a very strong person.”

To learn more

Money raised through Sophia’s senior project as part of the marathon will go toward the Starkey Hearing Foundation, an organization that supports deaf and hard of hearing individuals. It provides hearing aid assistance in more than 100 countries.

More information: starkeyhearingfoundation.org.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com