School Desk

Playing Paralympians



Brittany Jones sat with her legs sprawled out in front of her on the floor of the Horace Mann gymnasium. She leaned forward, reaching her arms out and sending a volleyball sailing over the net that stood between her and her classmate. She watched with a smile as it landed into her partner’s lap.

Brittany and 11 sixth-graders practiced sitting volleyball under the guidance of Kari Miller, a two-time silver medalist in the Beijing and London Paralympic Games, and Nicky Nieves, a U.S. sitting volleyball team member and alternate for the London Games. 

The two pros ensured that students played by the rules of the sport, which was adapted for the physically disabled. Students had to have at least one cheek of their bottoms on the court at all times, but could block serves and use their hands and feet to shuffle toward the ball.

After a few rounds, students said they could tell they’d be sore.

“It’s very hard, harder than I expected it to be,” Brittany said.

On Jan. 10, Horace Mann School’s Middle Division invited four Paralympians –– one swimmer, one basketball forward and two volleyball players –– to share their stories with students and help them gain insight into the life of the physically disabled by teaching them sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.

Victoria Arlen, a swimmer who took a gold medal and three silver medals home from the London Games, and Treyvon Jenifer, a forward who helped the U.S. wheelchair basketball team take home the bronze medal, rolled their wheelchairs onto the auditorium stage, where the school’s sixth graders sat in the audience.

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