EXETER — Not everyone gets a day named in his or her honor, but after Victoria Arlen's success at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Gov. John Lynch feels she's earned one.
Lynch will visit Exeter High School this afternoon to officially declare today “Victoria Arlen Day” in New Hampshire.
The inspirational Paralympic swimmer and Exeter High senior, who brought home the gold and three silver medals at the London Games, will be recognized at a Spirit Week pep rally this afternoon.
Lynch will present a proclamation to Arlen, who returned to school Wednesday.
“We were fired up to have her back. She's been an inspiration to a lot of kids around here,” said Sean Kiley, Exeter High's principal.
Arlen, whose eligibility for the games was challenged at one point and who had some fearing she wouldn't be allowed to compete, suffers from a rare neurological disorder called transverse myelitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the spinal cord. The disease nearly killed her, but she eventually received treatments that saved her life and gave her hope.
“It's such a success story. It's such a negative turned into a positive. She's a complete natural leader who leads by example. Everybody can learn something from her attitude,” said Kiley, who took over as Exeter High's new principal this school year.
Arlen, who turns 18 next week, was one of the first students Kiley met after he was hired and took a tour of the school.
The proclamation will be read at the pep rally, an event for the entire school held before homecoming weekend and tonight's football game between Exeter and rival Winnacunnet High of Hampton.
Kiley described Arlen as a humble student who doesn't seek attention. The ceremony will be quick, so the focus can shift back to the students at the pep rally.
“She wouldn't want it to be just about her,” Kiley said, “but she is the prototype of what all people should be: not getting down on themselves, persevering and attacking adversity.”
- - - - - - - -
Jason Schreiber may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.