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Beating the odds: Millbrook High School senior serves as inspiration

Posted May 31, 2016

— Elise Lutz may look like a typical high school student, but the Millbrook High School senior has beaten the odds.

Burned at the age of 15 months, from what doctors called a "pour burn," her parents abandoned her in a rural China hospital. Lutz spent the next seven years in an orphanage where she was put to work, receiving little to no education.

"I just remember sometimes I went to school. Sometimes I got there, sometimes I didn't," she said. "My main job was to feed and do the daily caring of the babies."

At age 9, Lutz was adopted by a Wake Forest couple. She only knew rudimentary English.

"Hello, my name is so and so. What is yours," she said. "That was my line for the longest time."

Juliette Tudor, one of Lutz's teachers, said the teen has been an inspiration.

"She has overcome so much, and I think a lot of students could really learn from her story," Tudor said.

Lutz, now 19, was able to grasp the English language and overcame a reading disability. She was recently inducted into the National Honors Society.

"She just keeps going forward full force and I love that," Tudor said.

But Lutz said it is not always easy, and that she is self-conscious of her scars. Middle school was a challenge.

"I was trying to feel beautiful and confident about myself even with the mean people out there," she said.

Lutz is now looking forward to the next chapter.

"It is very exciting. I can't believe I am going to college soon," she said.

Lutz will attend UNC Greensboro to major in occupational therapy. She said she wants to work with children with special needs.

The teen also recently won a national student video contest sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. As the winner, she led the pledge of allegiance during a Memorial Day ceremony in DC.

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  • Erika Phipps May 31, 2016
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    Her attitude and intelligence will take her far, especially with such a brave and generous heart. Her video about Vietnam vets was heart-wrenching but terrific. Kudos to Elise's parents for raising such a wonderful young woman!