He was told he’d never speak or read — but watch him now as he gives his high school valedictorian speech

COBB COUNTY — A speech made by a valedictorian at Harrison High School has spread through social media for its inspirational message.

Evan Mercer was born deaf. It was not discovered until he was 4 years old. His parents were told that speaking and reading were out of the question. On May 22, at age 18, he stood before his fellow seniors to give a speech as valedictorian of his graduating class.

“Deafness has taught me to never give up,” he said on stage. “Not when experts tell you it can’t be done. Not when you’ve fallen so far behind, quitting seems the only way out. Not when achieving your dreams seems an absolute impossibility.”

Evan’s mother, Pam Mercer, said that her son has always operated under the standard of a typical student.

The Mercers, Marietta residents, treated Evan just as they treated their other two sons. They expected just as much from him, despite what some saw as an impossible hurdle for him to overcome.

“We happened to be blessed that he’s smart. He had a fierce determination of his own and he wanted to speak,” Mercer said.

She said that she enrolled Evan in classes at an early age where he could learn to speak, learn to read, to be on par with other children in his class.

“He has never once gotten any breaks from me for being deaf,” Mercer said. He’s been treated the exact same as his brothers.”

Mercer said that Evan is the middle child to an older and younger brother, and worked hard to eventually speak for himself.

“We would go out to eat at restaurants and I would make him order off the menu himself,” Mercer said. She said that while it was sometimes a struggle, she would encourage her son to continue trying to relay his message until the waiter or waitress understood him. It taught him to use body language as a means of communication, she said.

In his high school career, Mercer took all the same classes and even all the AP classes, not letting his deafness determine how far he could go.

He used external clues and body language, along with lip reading and a hearing aid to understand his teachers and take notes. The only difference or “special treatment” the now-valedictorian received? Sitting toward the front of the class so he could hear.

Mercer will continue his education at Vanderbilt University, where he received a full scholarship, his mother said.

Mercer’s speech has already spread through social media and the deaf community. It has nearly 6,000 views on YouTube.

Mercer said she has received numerous phone calls from parents of children who are deaf, some who have just found out that their child is deaf and others whose children are struggling in school.

When asked what her advice to those parents would be, Mercer’s answer was simple.

“Never use it as an excuse,” she said. “What worked for Evan was not to use deafness as an excuse not to learn. If you make excuses for your children, you are already selling them short.”

Mercer said she often reminds people that being deaf only means her son cannot hear, but that his brain works just fine.

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