Blind World Magazine

Book by blind mountain climber enters curriculum.

October 27, 2005. (Massachusetts).

When Erik Weihenmayer and his team reached the summit of Mount Everest, the blind mountain climber and teacher made a commitment to use the experience to instill in young people the value of setting and striving for individual goals - and the powerful notion they can reach incredible heights in their own lives.

This fall, students at Haggerty, Baldwin and Peabody schools and the Fletcher-Maynard Academy, along with several other schools in greater Boston, are participating in a leadership program led by Weihenmayer, through a curriculum based on his book, "Touching the Top: A Profile in Courage." More than 1,500 students from 17 schools were given the book as a summer reading assignment, and this fall are sharing in leadership and teamwork workshops.

This program is designed to encourage students in the formative stages of their lives to think deeply about what direction they want their lives to go and what kind of legacy they want to leave behind.

"Leadership is contagious," said Weihenmayer about his own experiences as a middle school teacher. "Each time I get in front of a classroom and realize that I have the ability to guide students in their formative years to achieve success in their lives, it's just like being on top of Everest again. Every time someone gets to stand on top of his own mountain and reach the summit, a piece of you goes with them. I hope that these students will take this lesson with them throughout their lives and lead someone else to reach their highest potential."

After completing "Touch the Top of the World," students returned to school in the fall to apply lessons learned from the book to their own lives. Weihenmayer's climbing partner, Jeff Evans, spent a half-day with each school to share his friend's message of not letting other people's negative assumptions get in the way of personal success and of using "the light inside of us" to achieve individual goals. Students from the four Cambridge schools met with Evans last week at Lesley University. Working with a curriculum guide, teachers are integrating the book's content into classroom coursework.

The "peak" of the curriculum was a presentation at the Wang Center on Tuesday for all enrolled students by Weihenmayer himself. Finally, the students returned to their classrooms to discuss the impact of this life skills program. At a later date, the schools will show Weihenmayer's documentary of his historic Everest climb.

"Touch the Top of the World" is a unique partnership between four nonprofit organizations: Lesley University; World TEAM Sports (The Exceptional Athlete Matters); The National Braille Press; and The Perkins School for the Blind. Weihenmayer serves of the Board of Directors at World TEAM Sports, and received his master's in education from Lesley University.

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