Teachers and staff in the Millsap School District had a golden moment recently, thanks to a visit from paralympian Kari Miller.
"I was trying to think of a theme that would resonate with the staff, and the Olympics was an obvious choice," superintendent Deann Lee said. "It propels us all to be proud, to be Americans, and to go for gold in all we do."
Lee's brother, Bill Hamiter, is a coach for the Paralympic volleyball team, the sport Miller plays. For the inspirational moment, she called upon him for a favor.
"As I planned out the district convocation, I thought it would be outstanding if we could get a real Olympian," she said. "I knew they wouldn't have left yet for Rio, and that some of his players did speaking engagements. I asked him if anyone would be available and if he would be willing to release them from practice.
"Family connections pay off," she added with a smile.
Miller was competing in her third Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro at press time with the sitting volleyball team. Miller has silver medals from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in Beijing and London.
While serving on active military duty in 1999, a car in which Miller was a passenger was hit by a drunk driver. The driver of her car was killed and she had both legs amputated.
Miller was named Best Receiver and Best Libero at the 2012 Olympics. She and her teammates were named Paralympians of the Year in 2008.
"She is an outstanding woman and has an incredible story that I knew would inspire staff," Lee said of Miller.
"Kari Miller was such an inspiration. I loved that she decided to play sitting volleyball even though she had never played before," said Millsap middle school social studies teacher Misty Schnabel. "Her life was changed drastically by the carelessness of someone else, but she chose not to let that define who she would be and chose to remain active in life.
"I have always heard Life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how we choose to react to it. She definitely proves that. She is an amazing young lady."
Each campus and the Millsap administration department donned banners as they marched into the Millsap High School cafeteria to Olympic theme music with Jaden Schrick, Millsap Elementary School second-grader, as the torch bearer. Olympic-themed decorations adorned the stage as the band played the Star-Spangled Banner and, later, the Millsap fight song.
"Olympians, and Millsap Bulldogs, are already great, but are we satisfied with that? Absolutely not," Lee said.
"We push ourselves to be do more than we think we can do. That's what will help us achieve our vision of being the premier education organization in the area."