Oakes has four children and six grandchildren. She founded the Sight-Hearing Encouragement Program, which works with deaf and blind kids to show them they can reach their potential.
“She has a great story,” eighth-grader Trey Gooch said. “I just can't imagine being blind or deaf and having to rise above that, but she has done that.”
Oakes said her goal when speaking to kids is to instill confidence.
“When I was a kid I was just like them, and everyone told me I couldn't do it, but I kept trying,” Oakes said. “There's no reason not to try. That's what I want them to know.”