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 Christina Verkest I am a 27-year-old from the suburbs of Detroit. I was diagnosed with EPP when I was about 5 or 6 at Children’s Hospital in Downtown Detroit. Since I have dealt with my EPP for the majority of my life, I am very comfortable with it, and even when I don’t feel as “fashionable” in the summer sun, I know how to own it and am happy to educate others about why I might be wearing long pants and sleeves in the middle of a sweltering July day. So I try to this bring this “own it, even the not-so-great stuff” attitude into my high school Spanish classroom, as almost all of them can relate in some way. I always spend time at the start of the school year ensuring that my classroom environment is one that allows students to feel comfortable, accepted and supported. So one of the “ice breakers” I like doing is the infamous “2 truths and 1 lie,” where I share with my students two truths about my life and one lie. They have to guess which of the three is my lie. I like to get really obscure with these because it makes an impression on the kids, but it also allows me to be real with them about who I really am. One of my truths is “I am a modern-day vampire.” That usually catches their attention! After many of them guess that I am lying about being a vampire, I tell them that, in fact, I am! I take the time to explain that I have a rare genetic disorder which causes me to experience photosensitivity or pain when I am in the sun. I even paint them the picture of my “space suit,” which refers to the long pants, sleeves, hat and sometimes gloves that I have to wear when I go to amusement parks or the beach. While sharing this information at such an early point in the school year may require me to get somewhat vulnerable with the students, my hope is that I can educate them about the disease but also spread some awareness about the unique characteristics every one of us has.


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