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Colden Elementary gets visit from Paralympian, $15,000 grant for new gardens

COLDEN, N.Y. (WIVB) - Students at Colden Elementary School are being encouraged to go for gold - and green.

Two-time Paralympic medalist Evan Strong was at the school Wednesday morning to meet with the students as part of an award presentation from Smucker's, giving the school $15,000 to start garden projects.

The school day started with Strong greeting students as they walked in the door.

"I think it's really cool that a Paralympian can come to our school," 5th grader Jillian Levakoff told News 4.

The students waved flags and had their Team USA spirit on full display as the filled the gym to hear Strong speak.

The snowboarder won a gold medal in Sochi and a silver medal in PyeongChang, earning his wins with one prosthetic leg.

Strong lost his leg as a teenager after an accident involving a drunk driver.

His visit during the anti-drug campaigns of Red Ribbon Week was that much more significant because of that. "It's really cool to meet someone who's been through so much," said 5th grader Ashlyn Sellers.

Strong grew up in Hawaii, skateboarding and surfing, but got into snowboarding after the crash.

"At that point, I was a professional Pro-Am skateboarder so I knew that I wanted to have my life in professional sports. And I just didn't know how it was going to manifest in later life," Strong told News 4.

Strong told the students, whatever you're facing in life, a good attitude conquers all. 

He's proof, with his attitude and strength taking him to the Paralympics medal podium, and to the podium at Colden Elementary.

And, while his visit was a very big day for Colden Elementary students, it also signaled the beginning of big projects ahead.

Colden Elementary received the gold award in Smucker's Get Out and Grow Garden promotion, which will help create outdoor raised beds and indoor tower gardens all of the students will use.

"Students need to know what entails growing their food, harvesting their food, and things they can do with fresh vegetables and fruits," said Kathy Townsend, the Principal of Special Programs who helped secure the grant money for the gardens.

Colden Eleentary beat out schools across the country to receive the grant funding.


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