My name is Kim and my passion in life is simply smiling. My dreams are very cliché, but I want to be happy, to successfully study engineering at the University of Southern California, and to also be able to travel to NYC for many different reasons. Of course, to achieve any dream, one has to go through obstacles along the way. The main obstacles I have overcome are adapting to a new school and being strong throughout my cleft care journey.

When I was in 8th grade, I transferred schools. It was a difficult transition, and it was also intimidating trying to fit into a new crowd of classmates, especially with my insecurities about looking different than everyone else. Many people asked, “What happened to your lip?” As a child, I never understood my cleft, so I replied, “I don’t know.”

However, I was very lucky to have friends and family as my resources that helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my parents. In addition to my parents, my friends and teachers at my new school quickly became like family to me. My dream was just to be able to make friends and look forward to going to school every day, but I always had the fear of being bullied and not being accepted. To my surprise, I was able to make more than just a best friend. I became the president of three clubs at my school, I was one of the top honor students, and I was voted prom queen. I was able to create so many friends that it became more than just a dream come true for me. It wasn’t easy to push through the adversity, but I learned how to speak up for myself and be brave, and I was determined to remain strong.

Even though ACPA wasn’t a part of my journey until I learned about its scholarship opportunities, ACPA allowed me to become more confident in telling my story of being a child born with cleft. I want my story to be able to show that any child, born with a facial difference or not, can achieve their dreams–if they are willing to fight for it. I want to tell others to be confident in who they are. The world is more kind than one would think if they would just go out there and show themselves first. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and I know now that I wasn’t alone. I learned that everyone is born into different situations, but through determination, ambition, and lots of smiles, everything will be okay.

People still ask me today: “What happened to your lip?” But I know my answer now: “Nothing happened, it’s just different.” I’m not afraid anymore. I’ve made it this far. I can keep going.