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A simple question for most people -- "How old are you?" -- can be problematic for Kylie Lan Tumiatti. "Let's just go with 15," said Tumiatti.
Considering her life story, you can understand Tumiatti's confusion. When she was somewhere between two and five months old, she was found abandoned on the steps of a home for the elderly in China. Tumiatti was missing a toe and suffering from frostbite, rickets, flea bites, malnourishment and a staph infection. She was adopted by American Patricia Liebau and her Italian-born husband, Andrea Tumiatti. They also adopted another girl from China, Meagan, who is now 11.
Once Kylie Lan Tumiatti's adoption was complete, she was cared for at the Shriners Hospital in Tampa, Fla., where a series of skin grafts and plastic surgeries was performed. "Every time my foot grows, which is every couple of years, I have to get skin grafts," Tumiatti said. "After my surgeries, I usually have to spend some time in a wheelchair or a walker."
The procedures have allowed her to lead an active life that has included soccer, cheerleading, Irish dance, debate team and drama club. A sophomore honors student at Melbourne (Fla.), Tumiatti has a 4.0 GPA and earned a scholarship to spend this summer studying criminology and international espionage at the prestigious University of Cambridge in England.
As busy as she is, Tumiatti makes time for a considerable amount of community service, which is a way of life in her household. One such project is Florida's Operation Hope, which teaches literacy to the children of migrant workers.
"It's really awesome," said Tumiatti, who has received the President's Award for Academic Excellence and three President's Volunteer Service awards. "The kids I work with are so enthusiastic." Just like their role model.