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photo og Grade 7 orientation

Guest speaker Peter Crowley, who is legally blind, speaks to incoming grade7 students about perseverance during orientation in August.

Guest speaker shares stories to inspire, motivate students

Peter Crowley—an outdoor adventurer extraordinaire—has kayaked the Hudson River from Albany to Chelsea Piers in New York City, paddled solo across the English Channel and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro—the tallest peak in Africa. He’s also the assistant commissioner of New York State’s Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, and is himself, legally blind.

Crowley shared his accomplishments and several inspirational and funny stories with students recently as a guest speaker at Watervliet Junior/Senior High School’s grade 7 orientation.

Accompanied by his service dog— a short-haired collie named Fonzie—Crowley spoke to members of the Class of 2019 about perseverance and change. Crowley, who was diagnosed with optic atrophy at a young age, has never let his condition stand in the way of his goals, nor has it impeded his adventurous nature.

Crowley told students that when he was 5 years old, his ophthalmologist and his pediatrician both advised his parents not to buy him a bicycle. On his 7th birthday, his parents bought him a bike, which he learned to ride—a few bumps and bruises notwithstanding. “My parents never sheltered me because of my disability,” he said.

Crowley also spoke about spending hours in his yard with a supply of wiffle balls and a bat teaching himself to hit the ball, which he eventually became quite good at. He shared a story with the students about a time in fifth grade when he was playing ball with friends, and a player on the opposing team told the pitcher not worry about Crowley hitting the ball because he couldn’t see. But Crowley proceeded to rip the ball right over the kid’s head, just as his friends and teammates had predicted.

“Surround yourself with positive people because negative people will only drag you down,” Crowley told the seventh-graders. “Focus on what’s important to you and be sure to set goals for yourself.”

Four-day orientation prepares students for move to grade 7

The 42 incoming seventh-graders who participated in orientation also practiced skills development such as learning to take notes, preparing for tests and learned tips for improving handwriting.

The students also focused on building social skills such as learning to make positive choices and dealing with peer pressure concerning risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, resolving conflicts, and becoming better citizens.

The students also participated in project-based activities to help them become more familiar with working in teams, practicing leadership and developing higher-level thinking skills.