Walking on a warm sunny beach and hanging out at the pier with friends is certainly a fantasy of many but for 19-year-old Bella Hoehn, it’s reality. Bella is currently a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University. The small Christian school offered Bella a scholarship to be in the Palm Beach Atlantic University Leadership Program. There, she arrived in July of 2022 as a freshman and thrived in Florida and at school.
Bella is the youngest of Stan and Marla Hoehn's four children. The family moved to Lake Quivira in 2018.
Bella spent many years as a young child suffering from absence seizures which were debilitating and tremendously difficult. A diagnosis was made at the young age of three and she suffered seizures until she was ten years of age.
This sort of diagnosis is considered an invisible disability. Absence seizures are somewhat unnoticeable. Among other symptoms, a person having one of these types of seizures may appear to stare into space for a few seconds.
From ages 8-10 years old, Bella had biofeedback therapy from KU Integrative Medicine. Bella went to weekly hospital visits where she was connected to machines and probes which measured her brain activity and monitored the seizures. She could choose her favorite television program to watch and ultimately use her brain to focus and keep the television show playing. When she would lose focus and have a seizure, the show stopped playing. The hope was to help her to keep focus through seizures. Bella felt overwhelmed with pain and feelings of powerlessness during this time. Her mother, Marla, recalls praying the doctors would find another alternative to treatment. After 2 years of heavy sedation medicines which truly prevented Bella's personality from shining, she was admitted to the hospital for a short time and put on the ketogenic diet. This is when the miracle happened and Bella's seizures ultimately ceased happening.
Bella had fallen behind in school and has worked hard to regain scholastically. She has benefited tremendously from life coaches and tutors who specialize in helping those with disabilities. With hard work, amazing faith and family, Bella has conquered many hurdles and learned valuable life lessons. Her experience as a young child with an invisible disability has led her to be an ambassador and has spent many hours speaking and working with The Invisible Disability Organization visiting children in hospitals, schools, and events. Bella is currently the Director of Philanthropic Awareness for Alexia Academic Consulting's Beauty and Brains Campaign. She has advocated for teenage girls with learning disabilities by designing uplifting social media content. She also spends volunteer time helping the homeless in Florida helping to clean area beaches. She works to educate peers on reducing their carbon footprint too. When in Kansas City, Bella lends her hand to the Harvesters organization.
Bella credits her unique activities and hobbies as stepping stones that have helped her gain confidence and happiness. For example, following in her older sister’s footsteps, Bella joined the pageant circuit and excelled. To date, Bella has won pageants all around the world! Notable titles are 2021 Nations Jr. Grand Global USA and 2021 Miss Teen Global International in Dubois, India where she took the title! She also won the 2021 Miss Teen Global USA and 2018 Miss Junior Teen ECO Earth. Bella was also a Cheerleader for KC Cheer from 2016-2020.
A particularly inspiring volunteer job for Bella has been working with the Princess Program Inc. where she dresses up as Disney princesses and shares her testimony with other children with invisible disabilities.
Bella says, “Pageant life changed the way I saw myself, because it gave me more confidence, and helped to reinforce the truth that my ability is stronger than my disability.”
Horseback riding has also been a large part of Bella’s life. Riding English style, Bella found horseback riding allowed her to forget about her disability at least while riding. She competed in jumping with her first horse, Miss Rock, who is a paint horse but is now retired. Midas is her horse she rides just for fun these days western-style.
Bella has dreams of getting her business degree and owning her own real estate company. She always loved housing and design and was influenced by the “Selling Sunsets” television show!
The University of Arkansas and its College of Business have accepted Bella for the next school year.
Bella has learned a lot this first year away from family. She has become, in Bella's words, “independent and brave” and has learned that "not procrastinating and being responsible is important too! "
When asked what Bella’s motto is, she replied quickly, “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will!”