Neighbors | Submitted.At the invitation of Canfield Village Middle School eighth-grade teacher Sabrina Eaton, Freddie Seitz visited the school last year to speak to students and spread his message of being kind.
Neighbors | Abby Slanker.Canfield Village Middle School eighth-grade teacher Sabrina Eaton (right) invited Rose Seitz to deliver her son Freddie’s message on how to be kind in your daily life on March 29.
Neighbors | Abby Slanker.Rose Seitz, mother of Freddie Seitz, spoke to Canfield Village Middle School eighth-grade students to deliver her son’s message of how to be kind in your daily life on March 29.
By ABBY SLANKER
Rose Seitz, mother of Freddie Seitz, visited Canfield Village Middle School eighth-grade students to deliver her son’s message of how to be kind in your daily life on March 29.
Freddie Seitz was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, a craniofacial syndrome that left him without a right ear, cheek or jawbone. His story is impactful for students thanks to the success of “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio about a boy with a craniofacial syndrome and his experiences navigating middle school. Seitz has overcome many obstacles in his life and recently graduated from the University of Akron.
Canfield Village Middle School eighth-grade teacher Sabrina Eaton addressed the students and welcomed Seitz to the school.
“We are reminded today to be kind. When you look at a person, remember that everyone has a story. That person may have gone through something that changed them. Today, we are fortunate to have Rose Seitz here to speak to us about being kind. Her son, Freddie, is a real life wonder and she’s here to pass along his message of kindness to you,” Eaton said.
Seitz thanked the students for letting her share Freddie’s story.
“Thank you for letting me speak today to share Freddie’s story. The main thing I want you to take away from today is about judging people. We do it all the time. Sometimes we do have to judge a situation for safety reasons, but it’s different when you judge a person,” Seitz said.
Seitz then began with Freddie’s story.
“Freddie’s story began on July 20, 1992, the day he was born. He was born with Goldenhar Syndrome and has had 60 surgeries in his life. He is also completely deaf. We didn’t put any limits on him growing up. He had a typical childhood and we let him do what he was able to do and what he was capable of doing. There were things he wanted to do and he did them. He does what he wants to do. He keeps moving and finds his way around any barriers,” Seitz said.
Seitz spoke of one such barrier that did not stop Freddie.
“He was told he would never be able to do math. He did not let that stop him from trying, and it turns out he is amazing at math. And now, he has an electrical engineering degree and works for the Department of Defense. Electrical engineering is very difficult and is all about math. His message here is if you know you can do it, pursue it,” Seitz said.
Seitz said she and her family have received a lot of support.
“Along the way, our entire family has received a lot of support. The Children’s Craniofacial Association is wonderful and provides all kinds of support for families. They have an annual family retreat, offer great resources and they use “Wonder” as an inspiration to children and families,” Seitz said.
Seitz then showed the students a video from the Children’s Craniofacial Association featuring children with craniofacial conditions declaring “I am Auggie Pullman,” of “Wonder,” which tells the story of 10-year-old Auggie Pullman, a boy with a craniofacial condition.
“We can’t teach you empathy. You have to teach yourself what that means. You will run into difficult situations and you will have to decide what your reaction will be. You will have to ask yourself, ‘Can I empathize?’ I challenge you to stop and think about what you are going to do. If you see someone eating lunch by themselves, make an attempt to sit there. You never know, you may make a lifelong friend. When you are out, don’t be afraid to approach and strike up a conversation with someone who looks different from you. Smile and ask questions. Most people are more than happy to answer your questions,” Seitz said.
Seitz told the students the key word is accepted.
“Accepted is the key word here. Everyone wants to be accepted. It is a human reaction. Humans have the innate need to be accepted,” Seitz said.
Seitz encouraged the students to go outside their comfort zones.
“Some kids are very isolated. If you want to help them, go outside your comfort zone. That’s what Freddie would tell you. We are all very different. Talk to someone and find out something about them. I challenge you to make a new friend. Find out about that person. With the decisions you make, you are laying your foundation as an adult,” Seitz said.
Seitz told the students there are different ways to help that are very simple.
“There are many different ways to help and they are all very simple. You can say hello. You can smile. You can open a door. That alone can make someone’s day. You have the power to change things. You are the first generation of the Kindness Movement. Your generation has the power and you can change how the world will be,” Seitz said.
Lastly, Seitz addressed cyber bullying.
“Be very careful about what you post and how it could affect another kid. Think about what you are doing to another person and how that person will feel when they read it. One incident can affect the rest of your left. You’re gonna be sorry. Think about your future,” Seitz said.
Seitz had one final message from Freddie for the students.
“Never give up hope. Always keep going, no matter what situation you are going through,” Seitz said.
The program was part of Eaton’s monthly Everyone’s Story Matters initiative which she started in her classroom.
“I want to bring diverse stories to my students. I focus on stories that they would not normally have the opportunity to be exposed to or experience,” Eaton said.