Five Lessons From a Paralympic Champion

Donna Volpitta • Principal Leadership Article

Thirty-three years ago, Chris Waddell suffered a ski accident that left him paralyzed. Within a year, he was back on the slopes. Waddell went on to become the most decorated male mono-skier in the world, and one of the few athletes to medal in both summer and winter games. In 2009, he also became the first paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, which was documented in the award-winning film 1 Revolution.

When he retired from competitive skiing, Waddell asked me to help him develop a resilience education program based on my mental health research and brain work. From there, the program “Nametags” was born. Designed for students in grades three through 12, Nametags looks at the labels—often the limitations—we put on ourselves and others. Presenters inspire students to challenge those limitations, encouraging them to create their own Nametags—concrete representations of the goals they want to pursue and who they want to become.