Clara Soler - Pennsylvania Interview by Claire Plath Nomination by Amanda Soler Images by Inspiring Teens Issue 28 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
The Nomination: Clara Soler is inspiring because she has overcome -and continues to overcome - health challenges. She was born with a significantly small and limited airway (and is creatively constructed internally in some other boring ways). Most people with her condition have trouble walking and talking. Clara not only walks and talks, she sings and dances. When she is exhausted, she keeps going. Every day she challenges herself and sets goals to be involved in chorus and theater. These activities require her to actively work hard on breath control and sustained movement. She pushes through obstacles without complaining and without making excuses. Clara is extremely creative, crocheting every day. Additionally, she sings and dances and acts. She is very strong – and unusually flexible. Her strength is not only physical, it extends to her emotional and mental construction. She has to visit Children's Hospital to have bronchoscopies and airway visits. She handles those procedures and visits with humor, grace and a positive outlook. When she doesn’t have to experience a procedure with anesthesia, she excitedly looks forward to eating at her favorite restaurant, the CHOP cafeteria.
Tell me about the breathing challenges you have continued to overcome in your life. I have long stem tracheal stenosis with complete tracheal rings and Malaysia. This means that my trachea is very thin, collapsible and surrounded by complete rings. I get tired when I run extensively or dance a lot. Sometimes, I just don’t feel well and have trouble explaining how that feels. Humidity is usually what causes my breathing problems, but the cold can cause challenges for me too. My challenges are pretty much year-round.
What obstacles have you faced through your health challenges? How have you been able to accomplish your goals despite them? I have difficulty breathing, but I really enjoy acting, singing, and dancing. I just persist and try my best even if that means having to catch my breath for the next few minutes. I know that if I want to accomplish my goals, I have to accept any/ all discomfort. Certain things cause me more problems than others. For example, ballet and tap have very different effects on my breathing. Ballet is a bit more calming in the sense that you are not always moving in some sort of walking or running movement. Tap is a lot faster (usually) and creates a few more problems for me.
What do you love most about theater and dance, and what has been your favorite memory of performing so far? I love that performing gives me an outlet to be whomever I want to be. In theatre there is a final outcome where you’ll be able to see results, which motivates me to do my best and give it my all. I enjoyed the overall experience of being in Aladdin Jr because so many of my friends were in it. I met many new people through that production too. I still have a lot of the friends I made during that show and see them regularly. Theatre also provides a chance to meet people who aren’t in my grade or school, giving me more chances at creating long lasting friendships.
Can you elaborate on what your life has been like growing up multicultural? My father is Hispanic, and he speaks Spanish, makes Spanish food and we have often traveled to Puerto Rico. It has always been a lively part of my heritage. I’ve become more aware that some people have a prejudice toward people of Hispanic origin. Because of this, I believe that I have gained more compassion and empathy toward victims of prejudice.
This is from when Clara volunteered to help save Oscar Hammerstein’s home and make it a theater center.
As an inspiration to many, how have you been able to reach out to others through your passions and all that you are in? I enjoy helping my sisters prepare for auditions and help my friends practice for their involvement in theater and dance. Right now I am in conversations with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia about how I can volunteer my time to help children with health challenges. I’ve spent so much time there and know that most people want someone to talk to. When you’re at a hospital for an extensive amount of time it can get boring and scary. I’d want to be an example of someone who wasn’t given much of a chance but has been able to live a happy life.
Clara will be featured in Issue 28 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!