Bert Ambrose and Hudson's Hope Elementary students are once again enjoying the opportunity to learn from a Canadian Olympic or Paralympic athlete as the 2020 games approach. Classroom Champions is back at the schools for the 2021-22 school year, this time with Para Hockey player Cody Dolan, who's on track to make Canada's men's sledge hockey team at the 2022 Paralympics in Beijing.
Classroom Champions is a program run by Olympic bobsledder Steve Mesler, which gives students all across Canada and the U.S.A. the chance to connect with Olympic and Paralympic athletes and learn how they deal with adversity, success, and failure. There are 250 students combined from the two schools participating in the program this year.
Dolan joined Team Canada after the 2018 Paralympics, and making the 2022 Paralympic team is a dream of his, though the official roster for the games has yet to be announced.
"We're only 120 days away from the Paralympics, it's so close. We're having our first full season in about two years, and I think we're in a good spot," Dolan said of his team.
Team Canada will play games and events in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and the Czech Republic, leading up to the Paralympics, which run March 4 to 13.
This is Dolan's second year with Classroom Champions, and first with the Peace Region schools. He has sent a couple video updates to the students, but is set to have his first live chat with the schools in the coming weeks and is looking forward to meeting the students and making those connections.
"I'm looking forward to it. Every classroom is unique, every kid and teacher has a way they approach the program. They treat me as a friend and their special mentor, and it puts me in a cool spot to get to know them and understand where they come from. I'm proud to work with this community and help kids in the Fort St. John and Hudson's Hope area really thrive," Dolan said. "Thanks to Petronas for supporting this and making it possible for me to work with these kids."
In the past, the schools have been visited by their Classroom Champions athlete in May, though that hasn't happened since the pandemic began. Canadian skeleton athlete Mirela Rahneva visited Bert Ambrose and Hudson's Hope in 2019, with bobsledder Alysia Rissling visiting in 2018 just months after competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
While Mesler is hoping Covid restrictions allow for the athletes to return to live visits at the end of the 2021-22 school year, he said the program has been continue on strong during the pandemic thanks to the virtual element.
"We've seen improvements during this time from students and teachers, especially when it comes to perseverance and having a growth mindset. In times like this, the world is different, we want kids to know they have an influence on it and have agency, just like how athletes are really good at creating agency for themselves," Mesler said.
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