These two Scouts refuse to let hearing loss slow them down

“To help other people at all times.” Those words in the Scout Oath mean something, and these two Scouts are living them every day.

Julio “James” Hernandez and John D. Cobb use hearing aids, but neither young man lets his hearing loss slow him down.

Their remarkable volunteer efforts recently gained the attention of Oticon, the global hearing aid company. The company has chosen John D. and James as two of three student finalists for the 2018 Oticon Focus on People Awards. Oticon says the awards honor “people who are helping to change perceptions of what it means to have a hearing loss.”

Two out of the three finalists are Scouts? That’s cause for celebration right there.

Also cool: You get to help select the winners for these awards. Simply click here to read about each finalist and, if you’d like, cast your vote for John D. or James. But don’t delay; voting ends Aug. 24.

Keep reading to learn about James, an Eagle Scout from Atlanta, and John D., a Life Scout from Knoxville, Tenn.

More about John D. Cobb

John D. has been deaf since birth and uses hearing aids.

He and his best friend started RefugeeLikeMe, a nonprofit that aims to humanize refugees by sharing their stories and raising funds for resettlement agencies.

“The story’s not, ‘There’s a refugee crisis, and here’s how many refugees there are, and 5 million people have fled Syria,'” John D. told the Knoxville News Sentinel. Instead, he says, the story is how refugees are people “just like me, with favorite books, foods and bedtime stories, who honor their parents and work hard to survive.”

John D. is a Life Scout in Troop 46, chartered to Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville. He’s been through National Youth Leadership Training and has served on NYLT staff.

Right now he’s working on his Eagle Scout service project, where he will lead volunteers in the construction of a ferro-cement water tank at his school, Clayton-Bradley Academy in Maryville, Tenn.

In addition to Scouting and school, John D. is on his school’s debate team. That’s actually how he first became interested in the plight of refugees. When the topic of refugees was selected for debate, John D. started to dig beyond the faceless facts and figures. He wanted to learn more about the people.

Through recorded interviews and educational commentary, RefugeeLikeMe will introduce others to the refugees in their community and beyond.

Go John D.!

More about Julio “James” Hernandez

James is a 16-year-old Eagle Scout who has given hundreds of hours of service to his community.

He earned a bronze President’s Volunteer Service Award and is president of the junior class for the Young Men’s Service League.

In January, James raised $1,000 to help build houses for needy families in Guatemala.

Even while juggling Scouting, school and service, James works 10 to 15 hours a week at a fast food restaurant.

When customers learn about his hearing loss, they sometimes ask if they need to speak up or use sign language.

No, he assures them. He hears just fine with hearing aids, thank you.

He’s serving up food and an enlightening lesson about living with hearing loss.

Go James!