An Olympic Gold medalist and an award-winning author recently told upper and middle school students at The Bear Creek School that their words and actions can move mountains.
Snowboarder Hannah Teter, who brought home gold for the U.S.A. from the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy — and Justina Chen Headley, a Bellevue resident whose debut novel won the 2007 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature — have teamed up for the Positive Turn Girl Overboard Tour, spurring teens to share their many gifts.
Teter, a native of Vermont, has donated money from her athletic winnings and from sales of her Hannah’s Gold Maple Syrup (www.hannahsgold.com) to the children’s charity World Vision.
Headley ties community service to every book she publishes and is the co-founder of readergirlz (www.readergirlz.com) an international, online book community for teens. She said her novel “Girl Overboard” was the impetus for this tour because its heroine was not just a talented snowboarder but someone who found her power through giving to others.
“It’s about a girl who is from Seattle, a ‘trust-funder’ … the daughter of a cell phone tycoon. Everyone gravitates to her because of her money. The one place she feels safe, not judged because of her money or her name, is on the mountain,” Headley explained.
She recalled the first time she realized her own strength. When she was 10 years old, she wrote a letter to the editor of the San Jose Mercury News, protesting how baby seals were being turned into fur coats. The letter was published and a flurry of other letters on the topic soon followed. But her family wasn’t thrilled about her aspiration to become an investigative journalist.
She showed the students a photo of her great-grandmother and talked about the old Asian custom of binding baby girls’ feet to keep them tiny. Displaying a miniscule pair of shoes that her ancestor actually wore as an adult, Headley asked the students, “Do you think a girl could ever run free with little feet like this? Could they snowboard … or even walk? I was taught to be a good girl, to be quiet, but I’m pretty stubborn.”
She described her experience at Stanford University, where she was told that she’d never be a writer, how she got sidetracked into an economics major, worked at Microsoft for a while but finally went back to her first love — writing — and succeeded.
Teter shared one of her personal mottos, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got, because of the Law of Attraction.”
It’s easy to stick to a familiar path, but taking chances is how you change your life and the lives of those around you, she noted.
Headley added a favorite quote from Mother Teresa, “Give the world the best you have. It may never be enough, but give the best anyway.”
The speakers agreed that doing something — or anything — that is not for your own gain is more powerful than you might ever realize. They talked about Youth Venture (www.GenV.net), an organization which encourages students to change the world through community service.
Headley urged, “Find a problem … write a plan … they’re giving 12 grants of $1,000 each.”
Jack Knellinger of Youth Venture Seattle will help students from The Bear Creek School to create teams that can help the local or global community.
Offering classical educational through a Christian world view, The Bear Creek School places high value on community service, not just as a civic duty, but as “stewards of God’s creation,” explained James Woollard, head of the middle school division.