After starting college intending to use her voice to entertain, Amy Hawkes is now learning to help others find their own voices.

A second-semester communication disorders student, Hawkes believes a skilled speech pathologist can be a much-needed force for good. She began her education at BYU studying musical theater, but after auditioning, she felt that God had another path for her, one that involved helping people in a different way.

“In the back in my mind, [I] had speech pathology,” Hawkes says. “So, I prayed about it and felt like that was what God needed me to do.”

Starting the program was enriched for Hawkes as she heard her classmates’ stories explaining how they came to the program.

“I know a lot of other people in this program who've had similar experiences where we feel drawn to speech pathology or audiology, because it is so important to help people communicate,” she says.

Hawkes’ first exposure to the job she is training to do was through her nephew, who had a speech disorder that prevented him from pronouncing consonants. After attending speech therapy, he developed fully the ability to pronounce consonant sounds.

“He's a lot older, but he has completely normal speech,” Hawkes says, and seeing this transformation made her want to help people in a similar way.

As a ComD student, Hawkes is learning that the program’s goal is to nurture the full potential in others, inspiring patients to believe they can transform their speech and hearing.

“Speech pathologists have to always believe that anyone can improve,” she says— and that requires becoming patients’ biggest cheerleader.

“[It] is so powerful even for teaching in general,” Hawkes explains. “Teachers can really be the kids’ backbone as they're growing up. If they don't have family at home that supports them in that way, you can be that person for them.”

Hawkes’ high school calculus teacher was that supportive person for her. He had so much confidence in her that it built up her belief in herself.

“He believed in me,” Hawkes recalls. “That was really inspiring for me, because [calculus] was my area of weakness, but he never made me feel that way.”

Hawkes says the most impactful material in the classroom is learning about real people and their experiences from the faculty.

“The faculty just makes [the program] really amazing,” she says. “They are willing to listen, even when you are struggling with problems outside of the major. I've just connected with a lot of them in that way.”

Hawkes recalled a class project that required students to go around doing everyday things with ear plugs in to experience hearing loss.

“That was really eye opening for a lot of us, because we just got so much empathy for people that have a hearing loss,” she said. “Part of our job is [having] a lot of empathy and not judging others for their struggles.”

Despite being the only member of her family pursuing a career in the medical field, Hawkes is excited to become the empathetic cheerleader she believes a good speech pathologist should be.

“I kind of feel like ComD is the hidden gem of the McKay School,” she says. “That’s why I want more people to know about it, because it’s just such a good field.”

Writer: Lauren Hales
Media Contact: Andrew Devey