Charger Girl focuses on sights, not sounds

FOX 5 San Diego
October 18, 2011

[Click here to watch the video]

SAN DIEGO – When the Charger Girls perform on the field of San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, music blares over the sound system at ear-splitting levels, but one girl hardly hears it.

Severely hearing impaired since age 5, Melissa performs by sight as much as by sound.

“Before every group routine we do in the end zone I have one girl, depending on what routine it is, give me a tap on the side with her pom,” Melissa said. “On my own time, I will go over the music and make sure I know exactly what speed that song is and know the dance so well in my head that once I get that cue from the girl, I know it completely from start to finish. If the music were to turn off it wouldn’t matter for me because I would just keep going.”

Melissa, who’s in her second season as a Charger Girl, says she loved to dance from an early age while growing up on the east coast.

She moved to San Diego in 2005 and tried out for the Charger Girls and didn’t make it – the first five times she tried out.

“I realized this is something I really wanted to do and I knew that I could do it,” Melissa said.

“So then when I went in for my sixth try and made the team, I was ecstatic because this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I didn’t want to give that dream up.”

Her teammate, Marissa, sees Melissa as an inspiration.

“I think Mel is incredible,” Marissa said. “I don’t know how she does what she does but I’m so grateful for her – she’s wonderful.”

“She’s definitely the glue that keeps our team together,” said Marissa. “She is able to allow us to work effectively as a team and to help us all communicate with one another. That is something she brings to our team.”

When she’s not performing, Melissa spends time creating. She started a web design company in 2005, called Media Forest 8, and has grown her business to more than 25 current clients.

Melissa said she has lost about 85 percent of her hearing and wears a hearing aid in her left ear. S She doesn’t know sign language or read lips. Instead, she listens intently and uses herself as an example of how anyone can overcome great odds.

“I really hope that other people can see my story and hear my story and it will inspire them to do the same,” Melissa said. “I know growing up, people would say, ‘Oh you’re not going to be able to do that.’ Or, ‘Oh she can’t hear. She can’t do that.’ I would just be like, ‘What are you talking about? Yes I can.'”

“I know that it’s hard if someone has a disability, it’s hard for them to see that sometimes, but it is possible and it’s something that they should try to do,” she said. “If there’s something you really want to do, you should do it. And you shouldn’t let anything get in your way.”

Clearly, Melissa follows her own advice.

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