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Allegheny County Crowns First Deaf "Miss Smiling Irish Eyes"

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It takes poise and dedication to earn the title of "Miss Smiling Irish Eyes."

Pittsburgh's 50-year tradition continued Friday with the crowning of a girl who truly earned the honor.

Irish eyes might be forgiven if they grow a little misty. When 17-year-old Maggie Donaldson is crowned "Miss Smiling Irish Eyes," she'll make history.

"At first I couldn't believe it was really me," she said.

Maggie is the 50th to girl hold the title. But a more important number than that, she is the first one who was born deaf.

The girl from West Deer has earned the title.

"In order to win you have to be involved in the Irish community. You have to be of Irish descent," Maggie says. "And then, you have to have good grades, you have to be very involved in everything and then you get picked."

Maggie's mother will never forget what she was told soon after her daughter was born.

"She'll never speak. You just heard her, she speaks wonderfully. She'll never do well in school. She'll have difficulty learning. And she hasn't had any of those problems," said Lilli Donaldson, Maggie's mom.

"You know, I thought in the beginning there has to be and exception to the rule. And she's it."

Maggie is valedictorian of Deer Lakes High School, which she attends in the morning. She's also a leader at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, where she spends each afternoon.

Check out our photo gallery from the crowning ceremony here!

"She's proved everybody wrong," said her mom.

When Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald placed the crown upon her head, Maggie assumed a greater responsibility that goes beyond mere pageantry.

"It just gives me an opportunity to show everybody that deaf people can do anything they want to do, really," Maggie said.

Miss Smiling Irish Eyes is proof of that.

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