Eudora teen with a passion for patient care earns $5,000 college scholarship

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Eudora High School graduate Ling Clobes knows the scary feelings that can accompany a child’s hospital stay. Born with a cleft lip and palate in the Jiangxi Province of China, the teen has undergone a dozen procedures, including double jaw surgery.

Clobes’ first surgery took place in China at the tiny age of 1, but the majority of her medical care has been managed at Children’s Mercy Hospital in the Kansas City metro. Clobes said the doctors and nursing staff there ease children’s minds when they feel scared before surgery and other medical experiences. They’ve been especially helpful to her during the last year.

“I want to be a nurse that shows that kind of care to my patients, making sure they stay calm, especially for surgery.”

As the recipient of a $5,000 college scholarship from Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused organization, Clobes will work toward degrees in nursing and Spanish at Wichita State University.

Clobes, 18, bested “dozens of applicants across the country based on her leadership, community service, extracurricular activities, and dedication to raising awareness about cleft lips and palates, a birth condition that can cause numerous health problems, including difficulty eating, speaking, and hearing,” according to a news release from Smile Train.

Clobes said she knew what it felt like to be stared at because of her cleft.

“My scars are visible, and my speech is impacted. Nonetheless, being born with a cleft has made me more compassionate, especially toward those with a different ability.”

Clobes’ award arrived during July, observed as National Cleft and Cranofacial Awareness and Prevention Month. Cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth, or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate occur when facial structures developing in utero don’t close completely.

Statistics vary on cleft incidence, “but most experts agree that, in part, it depends on ethnicity. Some experts say that the highest cleft incidences are among Asians (approximately 1 in 500 births). Caucasians have an average incidence of 1 in 700 births and individuals of African descent have the lowest incidence of approximately 1 in 1,200 births,” according to Smile Train.

At Eudora High, Clobes belonged to the National Honor Society, played clarinet and piano, and took four years of Spanish.

She also earned a Lawrence Memorial Hospital Health Volunteers scholarship, renewable for up to four years. As she talked about her academic achievements, a dimple popped out on Clobes’ left cheek, next to her smile.

“I’m not an athletic type of person, so a lot of my scholarship stuff is because of academics,” she said via a video interview. “I’m just super blessed that I got this scholarship. I’m excited to see where it takes me.”

Clobes plans to follow in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, who also chose nursing careers. Before she starts college at Wichita State, though, Clobes will take a gap year and travel to Ecuador, where she’ll participate in a study abroad program through the De Soto Rotary Club.

Originally scheduled to visit Peru, Clobes adjusted her plans after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing political instability there.

Clobes said she looked forward to full immersion in the Spanish language during her time in South America. The trip might also give Clobes an opportunity for introspection.

Clobes returned to China in 2010 during the adoption process of her younger sibling and was able to reacquaint with her foster mom, Ding.

Contributed Photo Clobes and Ding

Clobes said she felt a sense of pride today about her birth country, although she hasn’t lived there for a long time. As she talked about her trip to South America, she wondered aloud whether the people she met there would ask her to tell them more about China or the United States.

“I did a project at school that made me realize I need to share my story to help me heal. Even though I was adopted at 20 months, I just feel kind of disconnected from China but also from here. So I kind of feel like I’m in the middle.”

That feeling of “limbo”  is common among some international and transracial adoptees — those who have been adopted by parents outside of their race or culture.

And as she pondered when she might visit China again someday, Clobes said she felt blessed for where her life had taken her, even if it wasn’t easy at times.

“I’m excited for my future and my education. Winning the 2022 Smile Train College Scholarship will help me accomplish my professional goals. I want to say thank you.

“And I want everyone to know that it’s OK to be different. We’re all unique, whether physically or mentally. People born with a different ability can accomplish anything anyone else can.”

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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