Keene State College junior shreds on her snowboard despite disability
Social Media Director
There’s something special about Jaime Del Pizzo. It’s not her passion for film, her love for snowboarding, her company she started or her bilateral hearing loss that makes her special. It’s her determination and willingness to succeed no matter what obstacles stand in her way.
Jaime Del Pizzo was born in Montgomeryville, Penn. on Oct. 29, 1990. At 15-months-old, Jaime’s parents, Jackie and John Del Pizzo, found out that their daughter suffered from bilateral hearing loss. This meant that Jaime could hear some loud and low noises when she was wearing her hearing aid but other than that, she could not hear anything.
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One would think that this impairment may sideline a person from doing certain things. But that was not the case with Jaime Del Pizzo.
She has not used her impairment as a crutch. She lives with it everyday, never letting it get in her way.
“What makes Jaime special in my eyes is that she doesn’t get down because she can’t hear. She doesn’t let anything stop her. And she’s a very focused person. When she has a goal, she really goes for that goal,” Jaime’s mother, Jackie Del Pizzo said.
Throughout her life, Del Pizzo has never been sheltered because of her disability. In fact, Del Pizzo never even learned how to use sign language.
“My parents sent me to the public schools when I was growing up instead of sending me to a deaf school. Often, when hearing impaired students go to deaf schools, they can’t communicate very well with regular people. They rely on sign language too much. Since I grew up reading lips, my parents never had to teach me how to sign,” Del Pizzo said. “I do want to learn how to sign though.”
“She was lucky, she went to the same school with the same people growing up so all the kids knew her. In all twelve years of schooling, there might have been one time when someone made fun of her. If they did make fun of her behind her back, she couldn’t hear them anyways so it didn’t affect her,” Jackie Del Pizzo said.
“Her disability is so minor compared to what it could be because she lives her life without letting it get in her way. She just keeps going by pushing the limit with snowboarding and other sports even though she has this small disadvantage,” Kelly Wren, Del Pizzo’s partner in crime on the mountain, said.
Wren, a Plymouth State University junior, is Jaime’s best friend. The two met when they were 15-years-old at a United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA) national competition at Copper Mountain in Copper, CO.
Although the two don’t get to spend as much time together while they are at school, they did just return from a five month excursion in New Zealand together.
“The whole experience was probably 10 times better because I got to experience it with my best friend,” Del Pizzo said. “The experience feels like a dream now.”
“Having Jaime with me in New Zealand was the best part about the experience. She actually made me do a lot of things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I wasn’t with her. She really pushed me to go out and explore with her,” Wren said. “We also split a lot of costs, which was convenient.”
Again, Jaime ignored her disadvantage, traveling across the world for five months, without letting anything stand in her way.
“It was difficult for her at first. She struggled reading someone’s lips when they spoke with an accent,” Jackie Del Pizzo said.
“There were obviously some barriers in New Zealand because everyone had accents. It was really different. But I got used to it,” the Keene State junior said.
The pair, Del Pizzo and Wren, explored all corners of New Zealand throughout their five months there.
They attended school in Wellington, New Zealand, snowboarded on an active volcano and even road tripped through the South Island during their two week spring break.
“We experienced a lot of things I’ve always wanted to do. We were on a tight budget but it made the trip that much better because we were living the simple life,” Del Pizzo said. “We would drive around during the day and see all these beautiful places then pitch a tent at night wherever we could.”
Del Pizzo and Wren brought their passion for snowboarding with them when they went to New Zealand.
They purchased a season’s pass at Mt. Raupheu, which doubles as an active volcano.
The two enjoyed a very different snowboarding experience at Mt. Raupheu.
“The snow in New Zealand is really different. There’s no trees, it’s all open terrain. So there’s a lot of natural gulley’s and cliffs. The weather was also really sporadic too. It would be really sunny one minute then there would be a complete white out the next minute. We had to be really careful,” Del Pizzo said.
Since Wren and Del Pizzo met on the mountain, that’s one place they have no problem communicating with each other.
“If I need to get her attention on the mountain, I usually throw snowballs at her. We usually make a game plan before we go down the mountain. And every once in a while, she will stop and make sure everyone we are riding with is still with her,” Wren said. “With snowboarding, it’s such an individual sport. You don’t need your ears for it.”
“The mountain is one place where her impairment doesn’t affect her at all,” Jackie Del Pizzo said.
Not only are Del Pizzo and Wren setting the tone for women riders around the Northeast, they are also trying to set up a platform to help other women riders do what they do every weekend.
The two began collaboration on their company, “Thumbs Up Birds” in June of 2011.
Although they are still in the beginning stages of the long process of starting a business, the pair is determined.
“We want to promote up and coming girl riders locally and nationally. We feel like there isn’t enough attention on girls that ride and we want to change that,” Del Pizzo said. “We want to make it easier for girls like us to find other girls that ride in their area so they have other girls to ride with.”
The company has a Facebook page titled “Thumbs Up Birds.” Del Pizzo and Wren plan to expand their company once they graduate college.
Another place where Del Pizzo doesn’t let her impairment affect her is in the classroom. Del Pizzo’s major at Keene State College is film production.
She knew she wanted to do something with film when she was in high school.
But her interest in cameras started at a very young age.
“My dad is really into photography. He would always have a camera with him when I was younger. When he would bring the camera with him, I would always ask to try it out,” Del Pizzo said.
“Film goes hand in hand with my hearing loss. I have always been a very visual person and that helps.”
“The kid does everything. I can’t say she’s ever let her impairment stop her from doing anything she wants to do,” Jackie Del Pizzo said.
Last year, one of Del Pizzo’s experimental films even made it into Keene State’s student film festival.
The film, Associational Cues, which can be found on Vimeo.com, is based around a typical day for Jaime.
The assignment for her project was to create a five minute film that brought her life onto the screen.
Del Pizzo had a hard time figuring out how she could do that.
With the help of her TA, Jeremy Kingwell, Del Pizzo put together a great video.
“I had someone helping me with the sound to make it sound somewhat similar to how I actually hear things,” Del Pizzo said.
“It was the best story I told with a film because it showed everyone a little bit of my life,” Del Pizzo said.
She continues to defy the odds everyday. She never lets her impairment affect her life.
“She never lets anything hold her back. She is one of my most inspirational friends. I love that girl and I wouldn’t trade her in for anything,” Kelly Wren said.
If the past is any indication of Del Pizzo’s future, chances are she will continue to use her impairment as motivation instead of letting it hold her back from her dreams.
Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at email@example.com