An Olympic connection

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle Cruz Stock, a fifth-grader at Park Street Intermediate School, gets the opportunity to speak with U.S. Olympians Charlie White and Meryl Davis during a Skype session. The special event was just one of the benefits the school is getting by participating in a program called Classroom Champions, which pairs Olympians and Paralympics with students across North America.
Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Cruz Stock, a fifth-grader at Park Street Intermediate School, gets the opportunity to speak with U.S. Olympians Charlie White and Meryl Davis during a Skype session. The special event was just one of the benefits the school is getting by participating in a program called Classroom Champions, which pairs Olympians and Paralympics with students across North America.

Excitement could be felt throughout the library at Park Street Intermediate School as the clock neared 1:30.

At 1:25, the frenzied chattering began.
At 1:26, the nerves were expressed.

“I’m scared to death,” said Gabby Tackett to her friends.
At 1:27, they collectively glanced at the time.
At 1:28, teacher Arin Kress tried to calm them down while making last minute technological adjustments.
At 1:29, nervous smiles were found on all of their faces as they honed in on the computer screen.
At 1:30, a call came in.

The fifth grade students have been waiting for this for months.

The buildup to this moment started on the third day of school when they received an assignment that looked something like this: EIMRC AHE YALRNLD.

Their mission was to decipher the scrambled words for it would tell them which Olympic or Paralympic athlete they would be speaking with throughout the school year as a part of an interactive program, Classroom Champions.

After working together, the students discovered that they were to be paired with Meryl and Charlie, who are most commonly known as Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

“I was so excited when I learned we would be speaking with Meryl and Charlie,” said Jacob Walker.

Like millions around the country, Walker was watching and rooting them on as they went for the gold in the sport of ice dancing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia earlier this year.

“I really liked them,” he said. “They are so inspirational.”

That was the overwhelming sentiment shared by his classmates, so getting to live-chat with Davis and White was a dream come true.

For 30 minutes, Davis and White answered questions from the awe-struck and curious crowd. They spoke about finding a passion, setting lofty goals, the importance of education and the importance of having supportive friends and family.

“Support means everything,” said White. “If your friends and family are supporting you, it makes life a little bit easier.”

He urged the students to ask for support when needed.

“You have to be there for each other,” he said.

The pair also encouraged the students to make a difference in the lives of others.

As a part of Classroom Champions, the students will do just that. Throughout the year, they will be given lessons on topics such as friendship, leadership and community engagement.

They discussed the latter of the topics last month and applied the lessons by increasing their interactions with the special needs students, helping staff members clean the school, and writing thank you letters to those who make an impact in the local community such as teachers, firefighters and police officers.

Kress said the lessons taught in Classroom Champions is one of the reasons why she wanted to bring the program to the school.

“The mantra of Classroom Connection is to dream big,” Kress said. “It pairs you with mentors who have accomplished these crazy dreams and in turn they teach students how to persevere and how they can be great students and citizens.

“I want these kids to leave Park Street as good students and good people too.”

She said she could not think of many people better than Davis and White to convey that message to her students.

Walker, who was already enamored with the ice dancing duo, said after the Skype session that their inspirational message to dream big and work hard is already sinking in with him.

“I want to be an Olympic athlete and an author,” he said.

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