Paralympic athlete Claire inspires academy students

Claire Harvey with Helenswood students
Claire Harvey with Helenswood students

An inspiring Paralympic athlete visited Helenswood Academy on Tuesday (March 10).

Claire Harvey, who captained Team GB’s sitting volleyball team in the 2012 London Olympics, ran a game of blindfolded volleyball.

It was a pleasure to welcome Paralympian Claire Harvey to Helenswood. Her presentation struck a chord with many students

Lucy Monk, Helenswood principal

The match was part of Helenswood’s International Women’s Conference, which saw students at the school discuss issues themes marked by International Women’s Day last Sunday (March 8).

Speaking before the match, Claire, who was paralysed in one leg in 2008 after an accident, told students at Helenswood how she overcame a life-changing injury to become an international Paralympian athlete.

During her speech, Claire told students: “If I could change anything then I would change the pressure that young women feel, and the inhibitions that they have about other people’s perceptions about them.

“Just think of the power that you would release if you stopped worrying about it all.”

Students from the school then played blindfolded volleyball, using a special ball with ball bearings inside to pass the ball from player to player.

Over the past few weeks, students at Helenswood have been studying inspirational women in history classes – most notably Dorothy Levitt, a pioneering motor racer from the turn of the 20th century.

Nicknamed ‘The fastest girl on Earth’, Levitt was the first Englishwoman to compete in a motor race.

Claire’s talk is the latest in a series of events on Helenswood’s curriculum focused on resilience and character-building, including hearing from Hastings’ Labour parliamentary candidate, Sarah Owen.

Hastings MP Amber Rudd also visited Helenswood on Friday (March 6), where she met with students discussing the importance of galvanising 18- to 24-year-olds to vote. Part of the discussion related to the struggle by the suffragettes to get women the vote in the late 19th and early 20th century, including hunger strikes.

Deputy head girl Martha Adeyinka, who helped organised Claire’s talk, said: “The speech was really touching – afterwards, students came up to speak about times when they’ve overcome adversity, which was really emotional as well. The day has given us the motivation to push ourselves and make sure we all reach our potential.”

Lucy Monk, Helenswood principal, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Paralympian Claire Harvey to Helenswood.

“Her presentation struck a chord with many students, encouraging them to surround themselves with positive people and continue working hard. Helenswood girls were encouraged to follow their dreams and never give up on themselves.”