Class of 2016 Awards Evening

Helenswood hosts Paralympic athlete in blindfolded volleyball game

An inspiring Paralympic athlete has been leading students at a local Hastings secondary in a game of blindfolded volleyball.

Claire Harvey, who captained Team GB’s sitting volleyball team in the 2012 London Olympics, ran the game at Helenswood Academy, which celebrated inspirational women around the world.

The match was part of Helenswood’s International Women’s Conference, which saw students at the school discuss issues themes marked by International Women’s Day last Sunday.

Speaking before the match, Claire, who was paralysed in one leg in 2008 after an accident, told students at the school how she’d overcome a life-changing injury to become an international Paralympian athlete.

During her speech, Claire told students: “If I could change anything then I would change the pressure that young women feel, and the inhibitions that they have about other people's perceptions about them.

“Just think of the power that you would release if you stopped worrying about it all.”

Student from the school then played blindfolded volleyball, using a special ball with ball bearings inside to pass the ball from player to player.

Over the past few weeks, students at Helenswood have been studying inspirational women in History classes – most notably Dorothy Levitt, a pioneering motor racer from the turn of the 20th century. Nicknamed “The fastest girl on Earth”, Levitt was the first Englishwoman to compete in a motor race.

Claire Harvey’s talk is the latest in a series of events on Helenswood’s curriculum focused on resilience and character-building, including hearing from Hastings’ Labour candidate, Sarah Owen.

Deputy Head Girl Martha Adeyinka, who helped organised Claire’s talk, said: “The speech was really touching – afterwards, students came up to speak about times when they’ve overcome adversity, which was really emotional as well.

“The day has given us the motivation to push ourselves and make sure we all reach our potential.”

Helenswood Principal Lucy Monk said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Paralympian Claire Harvey to Helenswood this morning.

“Her presentation struck a chord with many students, encouraging them to surround themselves with positive people and continue working hard. Helenswood girls were encouraged to follow their dreams and never give up on themselves.”