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At RA, we begin each week with an all school assembly. It is tradition for every Grade 8 student to take a turn running the assembly and speak about something that is meaningful to them. Each week, their speeches will be posted for our community to read. These outstanding young people are the leaders of our school and have experiences and stories that are important to share. Last Monday, Gus M. spoke about perseverance and not giving up even when you are faced with the greatest of challenges. Enjoy Gus' story!

I would like to talk to you about perseverance. Perseverance means to try your hardest and not give up when times are tough. Someone who has shown lots of perseverance is Shaquem Griffin. Shaquem Griffin is a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, but what makes him really unique is that he is the first NFL player with one hand.

Shaquem was born in 1995 with an identical twin named Shaqiell but they had one big difference; Shaquem had amniotic band syndrome. This condition caused Shaquem’s left hand to not fully develop and caused him so much pain that by the age of 4 his parents scheduled an amputation for his left hand. After this he and his brother trained hard together through middle and high school to be the best athletes and football players that they could be. Before their senior year Shaqiell began to get offers for many scholarships from colleges across the country, but he turned them down so he could play with his brother, Shaquem, who did not receive the same offers. Most coaches did not believe that a one-handed player could be successful at the highest level of college football. There was a time in his life when Shaquem wanted to quit football altogether but his family didn’t let him give up on his dream. Then, in 2014 both brothers were offered scholarships to the University of Central Florida. There Shaquiel became a star, while Shaquem didn’t get very much playing time, until a new coach took over and allowed him to show his full potential on the field. Shaquem worked hard and didn’t let his handicap stop him. In 2016 he had an amazing season and was named defensive player of the year in the American Athletic Conference. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. In his first year in the NFL he had a challenging season, but he continues to improve every day and is looking forward to next season. Shaquem was able to accomplish his dream of playing with his brother in the NFL. Also, he committed himself to helping others. During the season, he met with kids that had similar handicaps to inspire them to work hard and not let their differences hold them back. As Shaquem has said, “the only person to stop you is yourself.”

Shaquem Griffin was able to overcome his disability because he persevered even though the odds were against him and he worked hard to prove that he was just as good as anyone with two hands. While he was training, his coaches and teammates treated him like everyone else and didn’t go easy on him. He learned how to catch and tackle with just one hand. This perseverance and hard work led to him accomplishing his dream.

Most of us here have had to persevere through something in our lives whether it is learning to read or riding a bike. An example of something that I have to persevere through is that when I play sports I am usually the shortest player on the court or field but I still continue to try my hardest. As you think of the challenges you face, I want you to think of Shaquem Griffin and never give up.
Written by Gus M.