April 14 was a big day at La Salle Academy in Philadelphia. Students were excited about their special guest, Apolo Anton Ohno. Thunderous applause erupted as the speedskating champion was introduced in a packed St. Michael Parish Hall, across from La Salle Academy. The most decorated American Winter Olympian came to inspire students to live healthy lives and follow their dreams.
“I’m human just like everyone else,” said Ohno, an eight-time Olympic medalist. “But if I can somehow change some of these kids’ lives, I’m doing something right.”
The Apolo Anton Ohno Foundation partnered with The Century Council and its interactive program Ask, Listen, Learn to inspire kids to embrace a healthy lifestyle and say “no” to underage drinking. The Century Council, which is funded by distillers, is a non-profit group dedicated to fighting underage drinking and drunk driving.
“I think it’s a really important message for these kids to hear and to hear it from somebody like Apolo, there’s no one better,” said Jennifer Curley, The Century Council Regional Director.
Ohno told students about his past struggles and how making positive decisions impacted his life.
“He shows kids that he started off just like us,” said fourth grader Semaj. “(He) showed us that we should be fit and we shouldn’t do alcohol because it really slows us down and it could mess up our future and he wants us to have a good future and I think that he’s a really good role model.”
Ohno pushed the message of “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” He told the kids if they get knocked down, get back up.
La Salle Academy President Sister Jeanne McGowan, SSJ, found comparisons between that message and John Baptist de La Salle.
“To get up once they fall, that’s the whole thing of John Baptist de La Salle,” she said.
Sr. Jeanne called the presentation “absolutely, positively wonderful.”
Ohno told the students they have unique talents and encouraged them to apply themselves in school. For example, study their hardest for a test so they know the end result is their best. They also talked about the dangers of drinking alcohol and shared examples of how to live healthy.
La Salle Academy invited students from San Miguel Camden, Hope Partnership for Education, St. Malachy and St. Laurentius for the presentation.
LSA student demostrates interactive program.
Ohno signs autographs for students.