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Olympic medalist joins ABES classroom

Out of hundreds of applications, Myrtle Boggs, a teacher at Arlie Boggs Elementary School, was one of only 36 teachers selected to participate in Classroom Champions during the 2012-2013 school year. As part of the program, Boggs’s sixth through eighth grade class will interact with men’s bobsled Olympic champion Curt Tomasevicz throughout his competitive season via monthly video lessons and live video chats. Tomasevicz hopes to motivate Boggs’s students to recognize their potential, set goals and dream big, while also educating the students in the practical use of communications technology.

“Classroom Champions allows Olympic athletes to reach out and connect very personally with kids all across the country,” Tomasevicz said. “All Olympians can share great stories incorporating the lessons they learn along their path to athletic success. Every athlete’s path is unique and contains different obstacles. By sharing these stories and telling what they have to overcome, the athletes can help teach kids to follow their dreams and reach lofty life goals.”

Not all children have the benefit of strong role models who encourage them to envision a successful future for themselves. Classroom Champions uses Olympians and Paralympians as role models for success and goal setting while increasing students’ digital literacy. Tomasevicz, who has competed in the sport of bobsled since 2004, will serve as an athlete mentor to Boggs’s students throughout the school year.

Tomasevicz comes from a small Nebraska town, which has a population of 690. He played running back and linebacker for the University of Nebraska from 2000-2003 and was a Academic All-Big XII in 2003 before transferring his skills to the ice. Tomasevicz’s greatest bobsled accomplishment came in February 2010 when his four-man bobsled team cross the finish line in first place to claim the first bobsled Olympic gold medal for the United States in 62 years. Tomasevicz is a twotime world champion, a multi World Cup medalist, and will be making a bid for his third Olympic team in 2014, where he is again a favorite for gold. He is excited to take his adopted classroom along for the ride as he competes over the next two seasons.

“Since the Olympics in 2010, I’ve really enjoyed using my bobsled success story to positively influence the lives of students,” he said. “Despite some unfortunate situations at home or lower income classes, all kids have the potential to recognize a talent and do something great. Classroom Champions can hopefully help a student find that talent and help shape a positive future.”

Boggs’s students will have an opportunity to learn from all seven Classroom Champions athlete mentors as they travel and compete around the world in their respective sports this season. The list of athlete mentors includes: women’s bobsled 2010 Olympic and 2012 World Championship bronze medalist Elana Meyers, 2009 luge world champion and Olympian Erin Hamlin, five-time national champion and two-time Olympian aerialist Emily Cook, five-time Paralympic medalist skier Stephani Victor, 2012 national champion and Four Continents champion figure skater Ashley Wagner, and ice dancing 2011 world champions and 2010 Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

“My students’ live will be greatly impacted this school years as they learn how to set goals and become successful,” said Myrtle Boggs. “Trying is scary for many because they don’t have role models that let them know that is alright to fall short as long as you keep moving toward your ultimate goal.”

The program was created in 2009 by bobsled champion Steve Mesler, who invited classrooms throughout the country to accompany him on his personal Olympic journey by interacting with students through online communication. While Mesler was busy helping the U.S. win its first gold medal in 62 years alongside his teammate Tomasevicz in the four-man bobsled competition at the 2010 Olympics, he still took the time to regularly check in with kids from around the nation through video conferencing and blogs.

“( Steve) encouraged these kids to believe in themselves and to have the confidence and selfdiscipline to reach for their goals no matter what the circumstances — to not wait for things to happen, but to get up, get focused and always strive to improve themselves,” said Michelle Lanz, a third grade teacher who participated in the 2010 program.

The pilot program was such a success that Mesler teamed with his sister, Dr. Leigh Mesler Parise, to offi cially establish Classroom Champions as a non-profit organization that targets elementary and middle schools where at least 50 percent of the student population is eligible for free or reduce price lunch.

As a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, Classroom Champions is seeking donations to support its local classroom. Donations will directly help purchase products and tools to implement the program. For more information, follow Classroom Champions on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ClassroomChampions).

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