Hope and inspiration: Paralympic gold medalist shares message at Saegertown High

By Bailey Kozalla and Sydney Kightlinger, sports editor and editor in chief 

The chant “We’re glad … you are … a Saegertown Panther” echoed through the Saegertown Junior-Senior High School auditorium at the kickoff of “Shawn Morelli Day” on Thursday.

A full day of activities took place to welcome home and celebrate the 1994 Saegertown graduate who recently won two gold medals for cycling at the Paralympics in Rio.

Morelli continued her education at Penn State and Webster universities in 1998 and 2001. After receiving her master’s degree, she became an engineer officer in the U.S. Army. During her time in the military, she enjoyed the camaraderie that came with serving her country.

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Shawn Morelli is a two time Paralympic gold medalist and a 1994 Saegertown graduate.

 

“You just meet people who will always have your back no matter what,” Morelli said.

While serving in Afghanistan in 2007, Morelli was injured by an improvised explosive device. She suffered neck and nerve damage, traumatic brain injury and permanent blindness in her left eye. Morelli started cycling as part of a rehab program in 2009 and now has a total of six world championship cycling medals as well as the two golds she won in Rio in September.

Morelli’s story is a story of hope.

“Life is going to throw you a bunch of curveballs, and you may be on this one path to reach this one goal, and then all of a sudden, you go through this massive life-changing event,” she said. “When you hit that event, you have to face the fact that your life has changed. You have to make a decision and move towards a new dream and not let anything stop you.”

To stress the importance of that message, Morelli donated her first world championship jersey to the school. It will be displayed in a showcase at the school.

Keeping with the theme of overcoming obstacles, during English classes earlier in the week, all students wrote about obstacles they had overcome or were working to overcome.

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Morelli presented the school with her first World Championship Jersey. It will be displayed in the Panther Hallway.

Thirty students were selected by teachers to join Morelli and principal Tom Baker on stage. They received shirts with the motto: “You wish … you were … a Saegertown Panther” and that’s when the cheering started.

 

With Baker leading them, students and staff cheered Morelli, each other and their community.

“It was a great moment to be a Panther,” said Stacey Hetrick, journalism adviser. “Seeing those kids up on the stage with Shawn and Mr. Baker just gave me chills.”

Morelli also visited Saegertown Elementary School, where the students chanted “USA” to welcome her into the the gym.

She spoke briefly with students, answered questions, shook hands and gave kids the opportunity to see her gold medals.

After the assembly, Morelli spent the day touring the school and visiting with anatomy and biomedical engineering classes discussing her injuries, how she dealt with them, and the composition and functions of her bike. Her road bicycle is specifically designed to allow her to compete with full control of the gears on her left side and is custom made for her body.

She also attended a press conference hosted by the staff of The Panther Press, Saegertown’s student newspaper.

 In one lighthearted moment, broadcast director Ben Haylett showed Morelli her 1994 senior picture. She noted that she was wearing her favorite Mickey Mouse sweater and that she still loves him. Students also learned that she is a history buff, likes to read science fiction and has a dog named Roscoe.

She shared what it was like to be honored at the White House after the wins in Rio. “You’re standing in the Blue Room, on the exact spot where President (Barack) Obama shakes hands with all those leaders from around the world,” said Morelli. “It’s pretty cool.”

“You don’t get an opportunity that often to have an Olympic champion visit the school where you are the principal,” said Baker. “It was an honor to have her here, and the door will always be open for her. She’s quite an inspiration.”

Throughout the day, Morelli challenged the students to create family from their school community.

“Are you willing to step out of the ‘in-group’ and bring people in to create a real student body family where you feel safe and supported when you walk in the doors to school?” she said.

Morelli added, “I don’t ever want to give up on myself or anything I am doing. It’s so easy (for me or anyone else) to say ‘I’m done.’ Life is full of dreams, and we want to achieve them, and everyone does. I refuse to give up.”

This story was originally published in The Meadville Tribune on Nov. 4, 2016. 

Mr. Bidwell shares personal experiences of paralysis

By Sarah Shaw, staff writer

After finishing a chapter learning about the brain, the anatomy class recently had a guest speaker visit on Dec. 1. The class took some time to focus on paralysis and how it affects the body after a traumatic brain injury.

Paralysis can be explained as the loss of muscle function in your body because messages from your brain to the muscles are not delivered. “I think it’s important to know what causes paralysis if they are in anatomy class, but not the details of paralysis,” said Mr. Chris Greco, the anatomy teacher.

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On Dec. 1, Math teacher Scott Bidwell spoke to the anatomy class about his paralysis due to traumatic brain injury.

The class’s guest speaker is a member of the faculty here at Saegertown. At age fifteen, math teacher Scott Bidwell’s life changed dramatically after a detrimental play in a football game against Lakeview High School. After multiple surgeries, it was unknown if he would be paralyzed for the rest of his life. “It was a killer kickoff, which means go right for the ball. It was rainy that day and as he juked, I jived, hitting him in the femur bone, breaking it while crushing my fifth vertebrae,” said Bidwell.

This ties in with the class’s recent discussion about paralysis and Greco enjoys listening to Bidwell speak to the anatomy class year after year. “I think that students know what it is, but they don’t know the significance of it and what it can do. And, the challenges someone faces with paralysis,” said Greco.

Although this happened at such a young age, Bidwell continues to live his life like anyone else would and keeps a positive attitude. Bidwell has one tip for all student athletes of Saegertown High School: “Play today like you can’t play tomorrow.”

Show your spirit for homecoming this week

By Sarah Shaw,  staff writer

Student council encourages all students and staff to participate in Spirit Week.

Student council encourages all students and staff to participate in Spirit Week.

With homecoming this week, the Saegertown student council and senior court have buckled down to make this a week of festive celebration. “We’re doing spirit week along with other things we’re trying to get done before the week comes,” said Ben Courson, student council treasurer. “We have four pages of checklists to do.”

Spirit week kicked off today with a display of flannel shirts and pink to celebrate the final day for Principal Doug Wilson. 

 

On Tuesday, wear tie dye. Wednesday, wear the assigned colors by grade level. On Thursday, dress as a fan of your favorite TV show, and on Friday, dress head to toe in blue in gold. For more information, papers are posted around the school. Following Friday’s pep assembly, the football team will take on the Maplewood Tigers at 7 p.m at Cannon Memorial field.

The formal homecoming assembly will take place October 7 in the auditorium, starting at 10 a.m. “Students can vote for homecoming king and queen Thursday, October 8 during history classes,” said Jacob Perrett, student council president.

All the homecoming candidates are ecstatic to take part in this special week.. “I’m super excited to just have a fun time. I think we have a good group of students,” said McKenzie Ashbaugh. The king and queen will be announced before the game Friday night, and the dance will be Saturday from 7:30-10 p.m. in the gym. Cost is $3 per person and $5 for a couple. 

Military homecoming: Jordan Weed surprises his brother

By Olivia Burger, Opinion Editor

Logan Weed, junior, reunited with his brother Jordan Weed.

Logan Weed, junior, reunited with his brother Jordan Weed.

On Wednesday Nov. 26, Mr. Scott Bidwell’s seventh period Algebra class was continuing as any normal class day would for junior Logan Weed. However to Logan’s surprise, the class ended with a shocker he never saw coming. His brother, Jordan Weed, had returned home for the holidays.

The surprise started when Assistant Principal Mrs. Laurie Kantz interrupted the class and said, “I think there’s someone here you’d like to see.” In the doorway stood Logan’s older brother, Jordan. Jordan had been released from the Shaw Air Force Base located in South Carolina where he is an Air Traffic Controller with an Airman 1st Class rank. Jordan’s break from service stretched from Wednesday Nov. 26 through Monday Dec. 1, giving him time to spend with his family and close friends over the Thanksgiving holiday season.

On Tuesday Nov. 25, the day before Jordan surprised Logan at the school, Jordan called his brother to trick him into thinking he wouldn’t be able to make it for Thanksgiving. “I was surprised because I talked to him the day before and he said he wasn’t coming, but he really was in the car on his way up here at that time,” said Logan.

Logan and Jordan, along with the rest of their family, were thankful for the time they spent together. Logan said, “That was the first time I had seen him in a year and a half. I hope I can see him for Christmas, but I’m glad I got to see him on Thanksgiving.”

Johnston (‘10) returns from service in Kuwait

By Garrett Johnston, Assistant Features Editor

Homecoming parade.

Homecoming parade.

Saegertown alumnus, Dylan Johnston (‘10), brother of Saegertown High School junior Garrett Johnston (that’s me) and son of MDS aid Michele Johnston, returned to the states on Nov. 4 after spending seven months on active duty in Kuwait. He returned to Crawford County on Nov. 6 after spending the required time at Fort Indiantown Gap in Harrisburg, Pa.

Johnston family at Fort Indiantown Gap.

Johnston family at Fort Indiantown Gap.

Dylan is a part of the 201st Red Horse Unit, a division of the United States Air National Guard. The unit entered Fort Indiantown Gap after being escorted from Newark, New Jersey by a police bike and a motorcycle group called the Guardian Knights. “It was really touching to see the parade when he returned,” said Michele. “I had no idea they would have an escort like that.  When I finally got to see him, I didn’t say anything. I just hugged him. So glad to have him home.” Dylan plans to return to Penn State Mont Alto in the spring to complete his final semester and receive his degree in forestry.