This next entry was one I was particularly excited about, considering how we found each other. One day, I received a Facebook message from a woman named Connie Nowakowski. She sent me a link to a dancer's fan page. As I took a closer look, I realized just who she was talking about. Jim Nowakowski from Season 12 of So You Think You Can Dance! OF COURSE! I feel like a lot of the cleft community (whether you watched the show or not) heard about him taking the stage. How every performance was polished by grace and elegance; how each move executed was felt entirely. AAAAAAAAND he is a cleftie! His talent and dedication made a bit more sense to me after making that realization. Even more after scheduling his photoshoot and meeting him in person. 

  Twanika and I immediately felt a kinship with him as he pulled up. He is new to Los Angeles for the most part and when we began sharing our stories, we knew he would easily fit in with the crew. Since his mom was the one to connect us we started there. He explained me that he was adopted. He elaborated a bit further about how a cleft affected baby came to be adopted by an American family. His parents received a phone call from the adoption agency once their baby boy had arrived. They were given the news that he was born with a unilateral cleft lip and a complete palate. This baby boy obviously had quite the journey ahead of him. Connie asked if he was healthy otherwise, they said yes. This was such an interesting/inspiring situation to hear about because most mothers have no choice in the matter. They have to deal immediately with something that was beyond their control. Connie? Well she just wanted a boy and anything else they could handle. And handle it, they did. It's mothers like Connie that us clefties are blessed to have. Cleft affected mothers are so much more special than any of us have the capacity of realizing when we are young. They take on their journey without hesitation; for that, we thank you.  

Photo by: Zachary Coffin at www.drypowderco.com 

Photo by: Zachary Coffin at www.drypowderco.com 

  Needless to say, Jim is an obvious powerhouse for the cleft community. He is yet ANOTHER cleftie that, instead of allowing his cleft to hold him back, he left it drive him towards something great. Sometimes having days where he isn't sure how to express how he felt, he put the emotion into dance. It wasn't until his pre-teen years that he made the decision to take dance more seriously and really go all out pursuing his dream. From that moment on, Jim poured his heart and soul into ballet. Moving in the most beautiful ways, he made his stage presence known and his career began to flourish. Now, Jim lives in Los Angeles pursuing his dream once again. I am sure very soon you will be seeing him dominating another stage. We are so proud of you Jim!  


  When I asked Jim what being 1 in 700 meant to him, his answer couldn't have been anymore accurate. 

"Scars show character and represent strength. I'm learning to embrace my imperfections more everyday, and '1in700' is a beautiful reminder that we are not alone."

  Thank you, Jim, for putting your strength on display for the world to see. You are a true cleft strong cleftie. 

Zachary Rodetis-Urenda