Florida teen talks respect at anti-bullying assembly
October 27, 2012 @ 12:00 AM
HUNTINGTON — It wasn’t the type of clothing Izzy Hadala wore or what neighborhood she lived in that caused students to tease her. It was a birth deformity caused by a rare genetic disorder, ectodermal dysplasia.
For Hadala, a 14-year-old from Orlando, Fla., that means she is missing some teeth, fingers and toes. But her condition is leading her to become a national spokesperson for anti-bullying. And on Friday, she brought her message to Cabell County.
Hadala spoke to students at Huntington Middle and Southside Elementary schools, sharing her story and encouraging students to embrace their differences and view one another for what’s on the inside.
“I didn’t want people to see me as different or someone with a disability,” she said to the middle school students. “Because I don’t have a disability. I can do the same things as anyone else can.”
Hadala also read from her book, “First Day Speech,” about a boy with a cleft lip who decides to start his kindergarten year off by telling his new classmates all about the deformity on his face. It’s what she has done on the first day of school since first grade.
But some kids still teased her, making for many days of feeling uncomfortable and going home and crying. After finding a supportive group of friends through church, it became easier for Hadala to embrace her condition.
“You shouldn’t be ashamed of what you look like,” she said. “It’s those differences that make you unique.”
Hadala’s visit was sponsored by the parent-teacher organizations at both schools, along with the school system’s central office. Teacher Teri Booten, a member of the middle school’s Respect, Protect and Connect Committee, said she saw Hadala on “The Today Show” on Labor Day and talked to the committee about bringing her to Huntington.
“We thought it would be great to have a middle school student talk to them,” Booten said.
Several student members of the committee asked Hadala questions about her condition, experiences and how to deal with bullies. Eighth-grader Josh Eastman said her presentation serves as both proactive and reactive to bullying at the school.
“It’s prevalent. You see it in most of the classes in one way or another,” Eastman said. “Her message was really powerful … I think it will make a lot of difference in people’s lives.”