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    Thursday, August 18, 2022

    'Even-keeled' Stonington graduate serves as the voice of others

    Stonington High School senior Kyle Lowry, the student representative to the Board of Education, stands in the hall Thursday, June 9, 2022, in the Stonington Public Schools Administration Building. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

    Stonington — Here's how Kyle Lowry responded when asked to tell his story.

    The Stonington High School senior, who graduated with the Class of 2022 on June 21, described living all 18 years of his life here, attending West Broad Street School, West Vine Street School, Pawcatuck Middle School and now the high school. He's won a full scholarship to the University of Connecticut, where he plans to study economics and politics.

    He served as student government president and as the student representative to the Board of Education, where he has participated in the discussions of issues such as the hiring of the new superintendent and high school principal, the budget and COVID-19 issues such as lifting the school mask mandate.

    He finished second in the statewide high school debate contest, is a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society, helped incoming freshmen get acclimated to the school each August and in the summer interns at a financial services firm in Westerly, where his duties range from researching stocks to preparing client lists.

    "He's the most even-keeled, level-headed student I've ever seen," said high school Associate Principal Alicia Dawe, who has known Lowry since he was a third grader and she was his principal at West Vine Street School.

    There's one thing, though, that Lowry doesn't mention when telling his story.

    That's the fact he was born with a rare congenital condition known as hemifacial microsomia, in which the right half of his face never fully developed. For Lowry that means he was born without a right ear, the right side of his jaw was not fully developed and he has amblyopia, more commonly known as a lazy eye. In addition he had a cleft lip and cleft palate when born.

    He underwent speech therapy and multiple surgeries — he estimates seven or eight — some to rebuild his jaw, at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford.

    "It's not something I give a lot of thought to," he said, when asked why he leaves out that part of his story. "For the most part, I'm fine. If someone asks me to tell them about myself, it's not something that comes out."

    "It took a while for me to accept it. Early on it was fix it, fix it," he said.

    Lowry said he could undergo additional surgeries to fashion an ear that would not function and fill in a portion of his face.

    But it's not something he wants to do.

    "This is not a hard decision. I'm happy. I'm comfortable. I don't feel like I have to do any more work. I don't need an ear as long as everything is functioning," he said. "They could build me an ear but it would just be cosmetic. They could add fat to add symmetry to my face. But I don't need it."

    "There are people who have the same condition and they want the operations to do all the cosmetic work. I support them," he explained. But, he says, "It's about your happiness and not what makes other people more comfortable."

    Lowry said he has enjoyed high school.

    "The last few years have had their challenges. But of all the classes that had to deal with COVID, we got lucky. We had a normal freshman year and half a sophomore year and we are having normal activities our senior year," he said.

    He said he enjoys the debate team and competing with teammate Sarah Berger. He said they have to research both sides of issues and be prepared to argue each side as they do not learn which side they have until just minutes before the competition begins. He said he also enjoys seeing the arguments other teams come up with that he and Berger may not have considered.

    Dawe said Lowry is part of the school's student advisory group and she said discussions between students, administrators and staff about issues such as dress code can get very passionate.

    But she said Lowry always take takes the time to listen to everyone's perspective and all sides of the story.

    "He doesn't come in and state his opinion right away. He takes in everyone's feelings and perspectives. He's very mature for his age," she said.

    Dawe said she has had many discussions with Lowry. Sometimes they agree and sometimes they disagree but she said he never gets emotional.

    She said during one conversation about a dress code issue, he pressed her to explain her reasoning.

    "He said 'I just need to know why. My job is to disseminate information,'" Dawe recalled. "He's their (the students') mouthpiece. People feel very comfortable with him. And he advocates for students who can't advocate for themselves."

    "He's gone through things no one should ever go through," she said. "But he's resilient and he's a person others look up to."

     j.wojtas@theday.com

    Stonington High School senior Kyle Lowry, left, listens to Board of Education member Sarah Baker, right, thank him for his work as the student representative Thursday, June 9, 2022, during a meeting of the board. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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