Enzo Cornejo has a condition that’s prevalent in about one in four million births worldwide, but while his life experience is incredibly unique, the lessons he’s learnt in his lifetime so far are relevant to everyone.
Cornejo was diagnosed with progeria, a condition that causes rapid ageing, just before he turned three.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Adelaide boy Enzo Cornejo, who has the condition progeria, shares words of wisdom.
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The condition is distinguished by physical characteristics such as hair loss, wrinkled skin, stiff joints and loss of body fat as his body ages five-to-10 times faster than the average person.
Although is parents initially considered homeschooling him, when Cornejo attended school in Adelaide, he blossomed and so did his peers.
He said his presence at his primary school helped reduce and prevent bullying, as he taught the children to respect each other’s differences through his charity Team Enzo.
“Nowadays, I feel like a celebrity,” Cornejo joked.
In 2023, he graduated from primary school and at his graduation ceremony he left his peers with a message to carry with them through the rest of their life.
“Be welcoming and accepting of everyone,” he said at the ceremony.
“Some of us need to do things differently, some of us may look or dress differently, some may speak differently, everyone is different and that is what makes us unique, just keep embracing it.”
This year, before he started high school, Cornejo said he was nervous about the transition and how he would fit in.
But after starting his first day and making new friends, he felt excited about the rest of his time.
“It’s OK to be nervous … at the end you’ll be able to get through,” he said.
His teacher Sarah Martin said Cornejo had fully embraced the high school experience and signed up for every extracurricular activity he could.
Cornejo’s enthusiasm and persistence has also encouraged his peers to try new things and believe they were capable of achieving their goals, she said.
“He is a wonderful addition to our community,” Martin said.
High school can be a difficult transition for many students, the hormonal changes can make young people much more self-conscious and concerned about their body image.
Research shows over a third of Australian young people are extremely or very concerned about their body image, and eating disorders affect about 22 per cent of Australian teenagers.
Cornejo said his life experience living with an extremely rare condition has taught him at an early age that true happiness comes from within.
“I’m OK being different, what’s important is to be happy and be inclusive towards other people who are different.”
-With Gertie Spurling