STATEN ISLAND, New York (WABC) -- A Staten Island teacher's kindness is bringing new confidence to a young girl protective of her smile.
Aryah Ordonez's trip to the orthodontist was far from ordinary. For the 12-year-old whose smile has been hidden for too long, it was a shot at higher self-esteem.
"A lot of people would judge me," Ordonez said. "They would say what's wrong with your teeth?"
She was bullied so much by other students, she's now too shy to talk to anyone without a mask.
Diamond Braces in Staten Island is giving her a brand new smile for free, and it could not have been possible without a discerning sixth grade science teacher.
"She came the first day of school with other kids wearing masks," Ordonez's teacher Dina Rocco said. "She was funny, she was thriving."
But when classes went online last November, Rocco says she noticed Ordonez was "a different person."
"Her camera wasn't on, and when it was, she wasn't speaking, she was covering her mouth," Rocco said.
Rocco says Ordonez's family doesn't have insurance, so she was willing to fund the dental work herself.
"I knew I had to help this angel," Rocco said.
That was until Helena Chetakov and her team answered her call for help.
"I hope she finds herself -- not to look for approval in someone else," Diamond Braces Office Manager Helena Chetakov said. "She's a young girl, she's got her whole life ahead of her."
Ordonez has a condition where two of her teeth never developed.
But after the oral surgery and braces, in a few weeks orthodontist Eliana Sarit says "she'll be able to chew well and obviously the ability to smile and feel confident about it."
Industry cost of the procedure is $7,000 to 8,000 dollars. The impact on Ordonez -- priceless.
"I'll be more outgoing, and I'll probably make more friends," Ordonez said.
A new chapter that starts with a smile.
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