Photo Story: Paralympic Medalist Mentors Shasta 4th Graders

 Classroom Champions connects Olympic and Paralympic athletes to students in a year long mentoring program.  Here 4th grade students from Shasta Elementary video chat with their mentor Lex Gillette, a blind Paralympic athlete. (Brian Gailey)

Classroom Champions connects Olympic and Paralympic athletes to students in a year long mentoring program.  Here 4th grade students from Shasta Elementary video chat with their mentor Lex Gillette, a blind Paralympic athlete. (Brian Gailey)

Klamath Falls, Ore. - Mrs. Morosin’s 4th grade class at Shasta Elementary is participating in Classroom Champions. A program, which pairs classes up with Olympic and Paralympic athletes for a full school year. The athletes virtually mentor the class, emphasizing life lessons to build grit, perseverance and resilience.

This year students are teamed with Lex Gillette. Gillette is a blind Paralympic athlete, and world record holder in the long jump, a 4x Paralympic medalist, a 3x long jump world champion, an 16x national champion and the first completely blind athlete to beat the 22-foot barrier on the long jump.

Recently Gillette competed in Rio Paralympic Games where he won a silver medal in the long jump. Gillette is currently training in the San Diego area for the upcoming track and field circuit.

Students asked Gillette questions on a live video call coordinated through Classroom Champions. Some questions included: How Gillette got started in track and field, why he chose the long jump, how he felt when he won his first medal, among others.

“How do you see to run?” asked one student. “No need for sight, when you have a vision.” answered Gillette.

Gillette further explained, when running distance, such as the 4x100 relay, there is a guide runner that runs alongside the blind athletes helping them stay in the lane and aid with the baton exchange.

Near the end of the video call, students also got to ask more silly questions: What is your favorite food, favorite sports teams and what do you do to relax. Gillette's favorite football team is the Carolina Panthers, which caused boos in the classroom as Morosin is a Denver Broncos (her room has many Bronco decorations).

Another student asked “Ducks or Beavers?” Gillette said “Ducks,” and the class erupted in cheers, followed by Gillette saying, “I guess I picked the right one.”

This is Mrs. Morosin’s second year participating the Classroom Champions program. Last year Morosin’s students worked with Olympic ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

For more information about Lex Gillette and the Classroom Champions program visit http://www.classroomchampions.org/

Images and article by Brian Gailey.