PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A bikini-clad Baldwin woman who appears on the Aug. 8 cover of People magazine was once ashamed to be seen in public.

“I was 15-years-old when I started high school and I was extremely overweight,” says Maria Jarosh. “I was the only overweight person in my class.”

Now 22, she weighed 240 pounds seven years ago.

“It was really hard to fit into the desk at my school,” she recalls, “so I would try to be the first one to class so I could squeeze into the desk. I didn’t want to go places; I didn’t want to make new friends. I really just sat at home and ate my sorrows away. But when I lost the weight everything changed.”

That change began when she joined her mother’s Weight Watchers class. Through exercise and diet, the pounds began to melt away.

“Then, I had the entire summer off of school. So I came back to school a completely different person. Everyone was shocked,” she said. “They didn’t believe who I was.”

She lost 105 pounds in little more than a year. Five years later, the student at California University of Pennsylvania has kept it off.

“I’m literally half the girl I used to be,” she adds.

Her mother, Lisa Jarosh, contacted People magazine.

“I sent before pictures and after pictures,” Lisa says. “And I never told her because I didn’t want her to be disappointed if she wasn’t chosen.”

That girl who had so many disappointments is now a national role model.

“I want to inspire the younger generation,” she says, “and I want them to be able to say, ‘Look at Maria. If she can do it, then I can too.’”

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