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DeWayne's World - A 'beautiful face' wows crowd

DeWayne Bartels
Above, Aley Hilst, left, of Germantown Hills poses with her mother, Jill, and sister, Annie.

In a packed room at Metamora Fields on Sept. 19 all eyes were on Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan. Her beauty and celebrity were magnetic.

Sitting on the east side of the room was tiny Aley Hilst, her eyes also fixed on Scanlan.

The 10-year-old fifth-grader from Germantown Hills Intermediate School does not posses the outward beauty of Scanlan, but Hilst explained to all in attendance at the Germantown Hills/Metamora Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast she has a beautiful face. She made a very convincing argument.

Moving writer

Prior to the prayer breakfast Germantown Hills Elementary and Intermediate School Principal Dr. Shelli Nafziger challenged her students to write an essay on something they were passionate about.Nafziger told them the student with the winning essay would read it to Miss America and those in attendance at the breakfast.

Hilst began writing about her face.

She was born with a cleft palate.

What she wrote was an essay with the power to move people.

“I was very touched by what she wote. She really spoke to the heart of what she is passionate about,” Nafziger said.

“I’ve known Aley and her family for some time. I know her character, that she has strength. I welled up with tears when I first read it.”

Moving orator

When the moment arrived to read her essay Hilst was escorted to the front of the room by Nafziger.

Hilst looked nervous. Nafziger was beaming.

With a tiny voice Hilst began reading.

Every eye in the room was on her.

“I’m very passionate about my face. My face is everything I care about, because everywhere I look, people stare at me and whisper,” she began.

The little voice began to crack.

Tears came to Hilst’s eyes. She was nervous about being in front of the crowd.

As she began to cry tears came to the eyes of others in the audience.

Nafziger continued for Hilst.

“When I was three months old, I had surgery on my lips, because I had a cleft palate. Some people call me ugly. I don’t care if they call me ugly. I was born this way and I think I am beautiful,” Nafziger read.

 “Sometimes I get red in my face, because people whisper about me. When I was little, some of my friends threw wood chips at me and called me ugly.”

Hilst began to regain her composure and continued.

“On my 10th birthday, my family talked about me and they said when I was little, I was getting ready for my surgery and my brother and sisters said I shouldn’t go, because I was beautiful just the way I am. I cried on my birthday, because I felt special. I felt special, because I was born special and I felt perfect too.

“When my sister was in 8th grade, she had to do a project, and she chose Operation Smile. Operation Smile is a hospital that comes to kids that have a cleft palate. I saw that I am not alone. A lot of other people have cleft palates and they will feel that their beauty shines too!”

As Hilst finished the beautiful Scanlan, with tears in her eyes, rose.

Hilst looked toward Miss America. Their eyes met.

Scanlan walked to the tiny girl and  knelt embracing the girl as the crowd rose and applauded. Scanlan told the girl how much she liked her essay.

“I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house,” Nafziger said. “I was so very proud of Aley. She spoke this truth to her peers and adults.”

As I knelt there recording and taking pictures I realized that Hilst had imparted an important message to those who heard her.

We are all flawed, inside and out.  

But, those flaws do not have to define us.

Out of the mouths of babes can come great wisdom.