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LI teen appears on 'Meredith Vieira Show' to urge help for kids who stutter

Julianna Padilla, Josh Groban and Isabella Negron. Padilla

Julianna Padilla, Josh Groban and Isabella Negron. Padilla and Negron are part of SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young programs. Members of SAY performed Josh Groban's "You are Loved, Don't Give Up" on the Meredith Vieira Show after which he surprised them. Credit: The Meredith Vieira Show

Isabella Negron stutters, but that didn't keep the Wheatley Heights teen from appearing on a television show -- singing and talking one on one with host Meredith Vieira.

The 13-year-old's highlight? A surprise visit on the set from pop star Josh Groban.

"I was so shocked. . . . My face was just blank, but there was so much going on in my head!" the aspiring singer recalled.

Isabella and 25 fellow members of the Manhattan-based Stuttering Association for the Young, or SAY, visited 30 Rockefeller Center last week to tape a segment for "The Meredith Vieira Show."

The kids formed a choir and sang Groban's "You are Loved, Don't Give Up."

Afterward, a cheering Groban, who has talked about being bullied as a child, emerged from behind a curtain.

Isabella said she's been involved in SAY for five years. The group's mission is to improve the lives of young people who stutter, through emphasis on building confidence, self-esteem, communication skills and friendships.

In her segment with Vieira, Isabella spoke from the heart about her speech impediment and how meeting others who stutter has helped her.

The group offers after-school programs, summer camps and speech therapy programs in Manhattan, Oceanside, Mamaroneck and Montclair, New Jersey, for kids under 18.

"SAY has never turned down a child with need," said Taro Alexander, who founded the organization in 2001 after living with a stutter of his own since age 5. "I grew up not knowing anyone else with a stutter. I was feeling isolated and alone with this challenge."

Andrew Carlins, 15, of Oceanside, helped Alexander expand the group's reach to Long Island.

They shared a desire to help the world better understand stuttering and how it can be tamed.

"Andrew is so mature, thoughtful, extremely intelligent, compassionate and a born leader," Alexander said. "I have so much respect for him. He wants to give back and wants to help."

Isabella is also eager to spread the word that help is available to young people.

"I want people who stutter to know that they're not alone," she said.

Statistics show that speech disorders affect about 5 percent of children, and 70 million people worldwide have a speech impediment.

A stutter often causes kids to get bullied, ignored or shut out. Many feel too embarrassed to express themselves, and are convinced they can't communicate effectively.

"What most people don't know about stuttering is the fear and anguish that goes along with it," Alexander said. "Stuttering is like an iceberg; there's much more underneath it. The pain and frustration and confusion for someone who suffers and keeps it locked up is so deep."

"The Meredith Vieira Show" featuring Isabella airs Monday at 2 p.m. on NBC/4.

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