Meet Maddy Borja: A girl who highlights the importance of embracing your hardships and loving yourself no matter what.
When talking to Maddy Borja, it's almost impossible to overlook the enthusiasm, positivity, and overall joy she radiates. From Cincinnati, Ohio, Maddy is a high school senior and an advocate for the environment, animal conservation, and her Pacific Island heritage.
After fighting in WWII, Maddy's grandfather moved him and his family from Guam to the United States to pursue a better life as Americans. With a hard-working mindset to "earn his place in the U.S." instilled at a young age, Maddy's father enlisted as a Marine, which made Maddy grow to love and advocate for her heritage as she grew older.
"My race is so important to me because many people don't study the Pacific and what my ancestors went through," Maddy said. "And I think that it's super important to broaden someone's horizons and learn more about different ethnicities."
Yet it's not just Maddy's family's story that makes her such a standout, but rather a more personal story: her own.
When Maddy was 16, she was involved in a near-fatal car accident while on an ice-cream run with her friends after a youth group meeting.
As she sat in the passenger's seat, another car ran a red light and slammed into the passenger door at full-speed: deploying the airbags, shattering the window, caving in the door, and totaling the car.
Thankfully, Maddy was wearing her seatbelt and nobody else was hurt in the accident...but Maddy wasn't so lucky. Due to her positioning in the car, Maddy's face was severely wounded. She was immediately rushed to the hospital and greeted by dental and plastic surgeons before going into facial reconstruction surgery.
"I was very confused as to why it had to be facial wounds. Like, it would've been so much easier if I had gashes on my stomach or legs or anything but my face," says Maddy. "So it was hard to accept that I would never look the same, especially when I was 16 and my physical appearance was so important to me."
Despite this, over 50 of Maddy's friends and peers came to visit her the next day, bringing cards and flowers to wish her a quick, healthy, and successful recovery.
And now, nearly two years later, Maddy has only used this story to empower her and others to love themselves despite their pasts, appearances, and wounds.
Describing herself as a "super-short and not tall or skinny or white like a classic model," Maddy wants to challenge the stigma behind beauty standards and encourage people to embrace the things that set them apart from others: your race, height, weight, or scars.
"Now, my wounds have healed. They're just scars now, so they tell my story."
Entering college in the fall at Bowling Green University, Maddy is (for now) unsure of exactly what she wants to do career-wise, but she's sure about one thing: she wants to help with anything she can.
Whether it be volunteering at homeless shelters, working at the Cincinnati Zoo, advocating for recently-incarcerated rights, or even just making others feel confident, Maddy Borja wants to use her positive, bubbly personality and incredible story to work in philanthropy and spread love and lyte wherever she can.