Paralympian Lewis offers inspiring message
Two-time Paralympian Jessica Lewis has inspired CedarBridge Academy pupils to overcome their problems.
Ms Lewis, 25, spoke to pupils at the school yesterday about adversity and determination as part of a series of talks organised by the Chain Reaction Movement, an anti-bullying and anti-violence group.
Ms Lewis was born with a condition called diastematomyelia — a split in her spine which left her paralysed from the waist down and a wheelchair user.
She competed for Bermuda at the London Paralympic Games in 2012 and the Rio games four years later.
CedarBridge S3 pupil Zuriah Gibson-Daniels said that, like Ms Lewis, she had doubters when she decided to become a boxer two years ago.
Zuriah added: “People would say, ‘oh you're a girl, you shouldn't be doing that' or ‘you shouldn't mess up your teeth'. But it's my sport that I want to do.”
She said Ms Lewis's talk had helped foster a sense of independence.
Zuriah added: “I don't have to follow this person next to me.
“You shouldn't have to follow people around just to be a part of the popular group or just to fit in. It makes no sense.”
Savannah Jeronimo, also an S3 student, said that Ms Lewis had inspired her to “overcome obstacles”.
She explained she was a model, but was below the usual height requirements for the catwalk.
Savannah said that Ms Lewis's message of overcoming physical limitations was something she could relate to.
Savannah explained: “I use it in a positive manner. I don't take it as criticism.
“When I do modelling I tend to wear higher heels or take pictures at different angles.”
Dequan Trott, an S1 student, said that Ms Lewis had demolished the idea “that we can't achieve something because of who we are or what we come from”.
Ms Lewis said that she had been approached in the past for advice by pupils after one of her presentations.
She added: “A few of them have told me about some challenging times that they're having in their life.
“Just being able to be a support for them, especially if they don't have that at home, has been really powerful for me.”
Ms Lewis said: “They have the potential inside of them to do anything and everything that they want to.”
Kenneth Caesar, acting principal at CedarBridge, said: “I think the one thing she was really able to underline to our students is the fact that there are really no limitations in life.”
Christopher Swan, the CedarBridge Academy's deputy principal, said Ms Lewis's inspiring message of understanding one's limitations but not being bound by them was something echoed by the school in the idea of the “growth mindset”.
Mr Swan explained: “I think this was really timely where they can see that each person can work hard on improving and, if they did a little bit each day, they can continue to grow and improve and overcome whatever obstacle life has given them.”