'I am who I am': New Berlin West eighth grader educates fellow students on her alopecia

’I am who I am’: New Berlin West eighth grader educates fellow students on her alopecia

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Public speaking is never easy, especially when it's in front of a large group of people.

But one hometown eighth grader beat her nerves to share something unique and beautiful about herself Friday morning during an assembly at New Berlin West.

Proudly wearing a shirt printed with the words "What is Alopecia?" 12-year-old Ava Herbst strutted onto stage, prepared to give a presentation she created about alopecia areata -- an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss all over the body.

“Some people don’t know about it, and they don’t know that I wear a wig to school," Herbst said. "I thought it was important, so people do know."

Herbst was diagnosed with the disease when she was only three, after her mother noticed her hair was falling out.

“Even though I don’t have hair, it still makes me who I am, and I am just as normal as everybody else," Herbst said.

During her presentation, Herbst answered questions from classmates and shared facts about the disease.

The middle-schooler said she was inspired by podcasters who recently visited the school.

"They came and presented about their life," Herbst said. "It came to me that I wanted to share with kids in my grade or younger grades, so they can be comfortable when I wear a wig to school or wear a hat, so they're not startled by it."

Herbst said that while there are ups and downs and some days are harder than others, she wants to open up these important conversations to break down stigma.

“I felt a little nervous, but I am glad that I got to tell everyone what it’s about," Herbst said. “Just treat people the way you want to be treated.”

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