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NJ teen inspired by movie ‘Wonder’ gives talks about being different

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A 14-year-old girl from Monmouth County who was inspired by the 2017 movie “Wonder” has been going around the country giving a series of talks about her own personal struggles.

Like the character Auggie Plummer in the movie, Emily Merrill is dealing with her own struggles with a craniofacial condition. Merrill was born without a lower jaw and has some other conditions. She has undergone 27 surgeries, including one in which doctors built a new jaw from her own fibula. She says that she cannot chew hard foods and must often deal with stares and looks from other people.

Emily says that she was once very shy, but that the movie “Wonder” and the book on which it was based inspired her to tell her own story. She has gone to schools around the country talking about her condition.

RELATED: Jersey Proud – 8th-grader Emily Merrill

“It’s kind of like now everyone kind of gets it,” she says. 

Emily has given her presentation about 30 times. She is always accompanied by her younger sister Abigail and her service dog Hank. She gives the talks in person or sometimes via webcam to deliver her message: “Different is cool. We are all unique.”

“I want to educate people. I want to tell people who I am and to be kind to everyone and that different is cool,” she says.

It's a display of courage one doesn’t see very often. Emily’s mother says that she is very proud.

“I think it's been an amazing experience to see Emily feel empowered, to tell her story and to have the self-confidence and self-esteem to get up there and share her journey, which is really quite a journey, I'm so proud of her,” says mother Nancy Merrill.

Emily gave a presentation at Tinton Falls Middle School Friday – the school that she attends. It was the first time her classmates saw her presentation.

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