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Local students learn from man who made climbing Mt. Everest a family affair

Alan Mallory teaches students about perseverance during Be Inspired Week event at Kortright Hills

A man who climbed Mount Everest with his family engaged students at Kortright Hills Public School Wednesday with his motivational tale of perseverance journeying to the top of the world to reach his dream.

Accompanied by a multimedia reel of edgy personal videos and photos, Alan Mallory spoke of his family’s adventure to conquer the world’s tallest summit together.

He set out on the two-month trek in 2008 with his parents, brother and sister. His mom tore her Achilles heel early on and had to abandon her climb but the others pushed on and earned themselves a world record title for the combined family climb.

Students and staff leaned in and listened attentively to Mallory’s talk, part of the school’s “Be Inspired” week, organized by Me to We students and Grade 5 teacher Cathy Dykstra.

Mallory’s story is an inspiring one which can be applied to everyday life, Dykstra said, as it encourages people to realize their goals and the value of perseverance.

Mallory spoke of death-defying stunts he endured during the climb. Besides physical environmental dangers such as crossing vast frozen and virtually-bottomless crevasses using up to six aluminum ladders tied together with rope, hostile winds and frigid temperatures, avalanches and melting ice, there were a number of other concerns.

The arduous trek up 8,848 metres into the thinning air wreaks havoc on the body including weakened immune systems that often lead to weeks of illness, mental and physical exhaustion and dangerously low oxygen levels in the atmosphere.

Mallory noted that only 29 per cent of Everest’s climbers succeed. Most turn back, others die, and he says that in order to continue with the treacherous trek, it can only happen if the feat is a true dream to those who persevere.

Me to We student organizers said they hoped Mallory’s talk would inspire fellow students to reach for their goals and follow their dreams. They clearly understood his message.

“Challenge yourself to do the best you can, of your abilities, and just try your best,” said Grade 5 student Isabelle Heffernan.

“When faced with a challenge, don’t turn your back,” Grade 7 student Alysha Dykstra said. “When you set your mind to do it, you can do it.”

“It’s about overcoming mental challenges,” Samantha Caputo, another Grade 5 student, said, then added that she’s enjoyed everything about the week, particularly learning about what people are doing in the world and within our community.

It’s the first time the school has participated in a week-long Me to We program, something they hope to continue annually going forward, Dykstra said. It has included daily student-led assemblies featuring motivational speakers and activities, beginning with a rousing rendition of the school song and ending with dancing to the “We Day” song each day.

Although Dykstra encourages her students be kind and compassionate every day, she said that a week-long “blitz” is very rewarding for all of the kids.

“The week is about helping others who have no voice, as we reflect on being thankful and inspired every day,” Dykstra said.

“Even the youngest kids in the audience can make connections when you throw so many inspiring, different kinds of experiences at them all in the same week.”

Students are also collecting donations this week for the food bank, as well as gently-used books for a local school, toonie donations for National Service Dogs and selling “lolligrams” with proceeds to be split between the school library’s Makerspace project and Kidsability.

The Me to We students were most recently involved in the Chase the Chill campaign where they distributed over 400 scarves, hats and mitts downtown, free for the taking to those in need. The students spent a couple of months with Dykstra, knitting the items over afternoon recess.