Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
FRANKLIN FURNACE — Green Schools in Franklin Furnace hosted a special program Friday morning, inviting a group of retired Olympian athletes from New Zealand and the Kahurangi Maori Dance Company of New Zealand, to speak and perform for students.
The assembly was organized by Randy Smith, an intervention specialist at Green School, to speak to students about having confidence in themselves to succeed.
“We wanted to give the kids an opportunity to experience another culture. A lot of these kids probably will never be able to travel to see or hear any of the people we’ve brought in,” Smith said. “This is my first year at Green, and I’d love to do as much as I can for the students of Green. I think this is one of the greatest schools I’ve ever been in and I want to do everything I can to help the students succeed and experience some of the things in life that they may never get the opportunity to have.”
The morning started with retired Olympian runners Bill Baillie, Barry Magee and Bob Schul, and active Olympian runner Nick Willis.
Magee is a retired Olympic bronze medalist, and currently the top distance running coach in New Zealand. Baillie is a retired Olympian runner from New Zealand, and world record-holder in the one-hour run, and 20,000-meter run. Schul, from Dayton, is a retired Olympian runner and the only the American to win the gold in 5,000 meters. Willis, from New Zealand, is an active Olympic silver medalist in the 1,500-meter run, and currently has the fastest time in the world for the mile-run. He will be running this summer in Moscow.
“They’re trying to use us today to send a message to the kids to help inspire and encourage them,” Magee said. “At a high school like this, if you can give the confidence and help them own their future, it doesn’t matter what their sport is, or if it’s academic or music or art or sports, if you can inspire and encourage someone that’s a tremendous thing. Give them confidence to face the future, rather than being scared or fearful, or feeling that I’m a nothing and a nobody. The younger you can get that confidence, the more successful you’ll be at just being a good human adult.”
After the Olympians shared their stories, the Kahurangi Maori Dance Company of New Zealand came out to share their music and history with students.
“Our main forte is native New Zealand dancing and Polynesian dancing as well. The performances we do in the schools are mainly educational programs, so we teach about New Zealand culture and Polynesian culture through song and dance,” said Aaron Maui of the dance company.
This is the company’s first visit to Green School, but Maui said they have performed at nearby South Point School three times. He said it’s important to share the Maori history and culture with students in Franklin Furnace and all over the world.
More information about the Maori culture is available online at www.maori.com, and information about the Kahurangi Maori Dance Company can be found on their website at www.kahurangi.com.
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.