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Bridgeport School District
55781 National Rd.
Bridgeport, OH 43912
Phone: 740-635-1713
Fax: 740-635-6003
Story Comes to Life for Students
For students in the fifth grade at Bridgeport Middle School, a story about Osawa, a boy who couldn’t smile due to a cleft lip, became more than a story, thanks to a “Skype” chat with Ashleigh Baker, a new friend from New Mexico. Students in the fifth grade recently read an article about a boy in Africa who suffered from a cleft lip, but due to the Smile Train Project, an organization that provides reconstructive surgery free of charge to children around the world, had his life changed. So too was Ashleigh’s life changed, and students were able to find out, first hand, about the special young lady who is now a nurse on a reservation in New Mexico and who traveled to Asia last March to help in Smile Asia, the Asian equivalent of Smile Train.
Ashleigh had her first surgery soon after birth as she was born with a cleft palate. From there the surgeries continued into high school. Students asked questions, via Skype, and learned that Ashleigh, who became a nurse due to the many surgeries she underwent, traveled to Asia to help children like Osawa. While there, Ashleigh helped with eighty-one operations in four days, operations that were life-changing for all involved.
Another tie-in with Ashleigh that students brought up was the story Wonder about a boy with a facial anomaly that sets him apart from his classmates. This story prompted questions from students about cruelness and loneliness. Ashleigh told fifth graders that she had been treated poorly, but not often. Her father was the principal of the school and that helped, she said, but what really helped was her time at camp with other children who had cleft lips or palates. “I knew that there were others like me. I wasn’t alone.” Ashleigh returned to camp each year and later became a counselor there.
Ashleigh is now a nurse on a reservation in New Mexico whose roommate she met at camp when she was a child. She continues to help those who have cleft and even adopted a dog with a cleft palate. She was thrilled to have the chance to speak with students and the students were touched by her kindness and advice. Her advice to the students – “Be yourself and always believe in yourself!”
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