4th-graders get to meet ‘video-pal’ champion

       Throughout the 2011-12 school year, Ann Yenne's class from West Elementary School has been exchanging videos monthly with an Olympic champion.

Mary Allison Milford, a member of America's wheelchair basketball team and designated "Classroom Champion" this year for West Elementary teacher Anne Yenne's fourth-grade class, poses with students and adult leaders during their recent rendezvous. The meeting place was Wasson High School's gym, where Milford and the class watched the second half of a wheelchair basketball game.
Courtesy of Anne Yenne

       On March 24, her fourth-grade class finally got to meet Mary Allison Milford, a member of America's wheelchair basketball team, which had won the gold medal at the Beijing Paralympics in 2010.
       Milford lives in Alabama - currently training for the 2012 London Paralympics - so “I didn't really think we would ever meet,” Yenne said.
       But as luck would have it, Milford and team were in Colorado Springs for the National Wheelchair Basketball Championships March 21-25. The meeting, set up with the help of the Springs-based U.S. Olym-pic Committee (USOC), took place in the Wasson High School gym.
       According to an article by Maura Gladys on USOC's teamusa.org website, Yenne's fourth-graders greeted Milford with “love and enthusiasm.” She talked with them, explaining the rules of wheelchair basketball, then joined them to watch the second half of a game.
       Milford was paired with Yenne's class through a nonprofit organization called Classroom Champions. The idea was to have the athlete be a mentor and a role model for “high-need” students.
       Yenne believes the experience has been beneficial on two levels - getting to meet a world champion and at the same time to see what the champion had to overcome. In Milford's case, she was crippled in a car accident at the age of 3. For kids who may sometimes feel they've had it hard in life, “this puts it in perspective,” Yenne said.
       “I'm sure a lot of these kids feel the same way I feel sometimes,” Milford is quoted in the TeamUSA article. “We can't control the circumstances that we were born into or that have transpired since we've been born. But we can control how we react to that situation.”

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