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You cant silence her spirit for life
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Bella Steele, 7, beams with two of her cheer squad team members, Lauren Braga and Zada Silveira, during a late afternoon practice behind Ripon Christian High School. - photo by GLENN KAHL
RIPON — Bursting with spirit, Bella Steele, 7, is an integral part of her novice cheerleading team for the Ripon Christian Knights practicing three days a week.

Bella has been deaf since birth, born without nerve endings in her ears.  That hasn’t slowed her in her apparent zest for life in keeping up with her two brothers.  Her parents Mark and Eva Steele have set high marks for their daughter who continues to achieve and even surpass the goals they have set for her.

The second grader was almost two when she had her first Cochlear Implant surgically positioned in one ear and just last year, at 6, she received the second implant that allows her to hear noises around her but not recognize voices as yet.  When she is tested in a hearing booth, she hears all the sounds, but how the brain interprets that we don’t know yet, Steele said.

Her mom recalled that her daughter passed the newborn hearing tests shortly after her birth – tests that are no longer given, because they are too subjective, she said.  

Bella is the middle child with an older brother Max, 8, and a younger brother, Hunter 3.  She attends the San Joaquin County program for deaf and hard of hearing students aged seven through nine that is held at Stella Brockman School.  Her favorite activity is reading – and reading anything that includes Barbie or Hello Kitty, her mother says.

The little cheerleader loves to go fishing for trout at Frasier Flat with her dad Mark – a 737 pilot for a private firm – and her Grandpa Dale.  She even baits her own hook with “power bait” and has caught her own trout and even one German Brown.  “She loves the rainbow glitter power bait,” her mother added.  “She just rolls it in a ball and sticks it on a hook.”

A Manteca police officer assigned to Sierra High School, her mother Eva Steel said their daughter does everything any other kid would do. “We expect the same out of her as we do our other children.  Just because she is deaf, we don’t want her to think she can’t do anything.  And she doesn’t get away with anything.  She gets the same consequences as do her brothers.”

The cheer squad has been great with her, her mom said.  They have been learning sign language and Bella also reads their lips.  

“Before they go through into a routine and start their cheer, they go through it with her until she says she’s got it,” Steele said.  “It’s not a handicap for her – not at all.”  She can say simple words such as mom, dad, and a few others at this point.

Bella has her daddy “wrapped around her little finger.”  She is a typical little girl, her mother added.  She has a bunny, “Whiskers,” and two dogs, “Dixie Doodle,” a Border Collie and “Link” a German Shepherd all playing “wonderfully together” with her in the back yard.

Steele said that she can see her daughter going into some form of fashion merchandising when she is older and out of college.  She said she loves to go shopping and try on dresses making sure the shoes match as well as the bow she puts in her hair.  
“She would change her clothes four or five times a day if I let her – she’s not into wearing pants, preferring dresses,” Steele said.

She likes books, watches movies and has seen every Barbie movie that has been put out.  The family makes use of the closed captions on the TV which exposes her to language through the sentences on the screen.

Figure skating and anything on ice attracts her attention and brings out the childhood sparkle.  The family spends time going to the ice hockey games at the Stockton Arena – also a favorite place to see “Disney on Ice” productions every year.

The young cheer team will be on the Manteca High Football field this Saturday cheering on their Ripon Christian novice team playing the Manteca Junior Buffaloes.