Students First – Ethan Horn shows true Grit running

(Submitted photo) Ethan Horn running with his mom.

This year, CCPS has had a focus on Social Emotional Learning, or SEL. Part of that effort includes teaching students about grit and resilience. Grit is defined as passion, perseverance, and stick-to-it-ness. Making a plan, taking action, and keeping a sense of confidence helps develop grit. There have been plenty of stories this school year of students showing their grit, their resilience. Every so often, you stumble onto a story that pulls at the heartstrings—a story that inspires.

Ethan Horn is a second grade student at Highlands Elementary School. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and has had to wear a leg brace to support muscle function. But that doesn’t slow down Ethan! In fact, he took up running as one of his favorite activities. He is on the school’s 95210 running team, runs alongside the Girls on the Run program (because his mother is a mentor), and is on a swim team in Lee County.

“Running is peaceful to me. It helps my body and gives me strength,” shares Ethan. “My goal is to compete in the Paralympics, so I have to practice to be the best I can be.”

Ethan is well on his way to that goal. Despite the challenges he faces, Ethan recently completed the Disney Princess 5K. While faster than many, it was the slowest he ever ran and he had to dig deep to finish strong. Toward the end of the race, his mother, Highlands Elementary math coach Michelle Garafola, heard him practicing self-positive talk. “You got this!” “We got grit, we don’t quit!”

These two quotes can be heard often throughout the halls of Highlands Elementary, and we’re #CCPSProud to say that Ethan is actively living the mindset the school is trying to instill in its students.

“When Ethan was first born and diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, I was so consumed with what he wasn’t going to be able to do that I never considered us running 5Ks, 10Ks, doing triathlons, and talking about the Paralympics,” shares his mother. “I’ve learned that you can’t let the disability define where you can go or what you can do. When you have grit and you want something, anything is possible.”

I’d say! Following the Disney Princess 5K, Ethan competed in the Shark’s Tooth 10K, finishing fourth in his age group (12 and under). “To me grit means to not quit ever,” shares Ethan. “As a runner, it is important to have grit so you don’t get stuck. Grit doesn’t mean you win first place. You could come in the middle or even last place. But that’s ok, you have to be proud for finishing.”

“He makes me look at life differently,” shares his mother. “Something that looks hard or impossible, there has to be a way to get it done, no matter what. You might have to come at it from a different angle, but it can get done. There is always a way.”

Jennifer L. Kupiec is the Specialist, Communications & Community Engagement Collier County Public Schools

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