© Guardian photo by Jim Day
Noella Klawitter will be telling students across P.E.I. her story of resiliency during National Anti-bullying Week (Nov. 12-17). Klawitter, who is visually impaired, will be joined by her guide dog Zeke when she makes her presentations.
The Frank Sinatra classic That's Life could well have been penned for Noella Klawitter.
Just like Ol' Blue Eyes used to belt out, Klawitter has been "up and down and over and out''. And as in this song of resiliency, each time she finds herself flat on her face, she picks herself up and gets back in the race.
Klawitter, 34, of Ottawa has taken her share of lumps, to be sure.
When she moved to P.E.I. with her parents in 1991, she was a Grade 9 student. High school would prove to be a harsh battleground for the bright teenager.
Klawitter encountered bullying. The attacks, verbal and physical, were frequent and wide-ranging.
Many girls poked fun at her. Nasty, untrue rumours were spread. A couple of girls liked to corner her for particularly unpleasant conflict.
"I remember miserable, miserable days in high school,'' said Klawitter.
Unfortunately, she lacked the gumption to stand up to the relentless bullying. She did not know how to cope.
Klawitter, though, would later become a woman more than capable of dusting herself off and getting back on her feet.
Diagnosed in 2002 with a genetic degenerative disease of the retina, she accepted her gradual loss of vision that has been reduced to less than five per cent today. Along the way, she has been a tremendous role model of courage and determination to local and athletic communities, particularly children.
Klawitter would not be held back by her lack of vision. She pushed forward. She became a world-class Paralympic runner, nabbing a slew of gold medals at national and international competitions.
She is also pursuing a masters degree in human kinetics, specializing in mental performance.
Kim Bailey, a counselling consultant with the English Language School Board in P.E.I., is certainly impressed with Klawitter.
"What an incredible woman she is,'' said Bailey.
"She speaks to the indomitable spirit.''
Bailey is thrilled, too, that Klawitter is speaking to many students across P.E.I. this week as part of National Anti-bullying Week.
Bailey expects Klawitter to walk into close to 15 schools, along with her guide dog Zeke, to make one moving 45-minute presentation after another. The students, Bailey believes, should benefit a great deal in meeting this strong-willed woman.
"I think there is a lot to learn from Noella,'' she said.
"Basically her message is 'You're stronger than you think.'''
Bailey says resiliency is the key to overcoming adversity in life. Klawitter surely agrees.
Klawitter also preaches perspective.
While she has had her misfortunes, like losing her sight, she never loses sight of the many positives in her life, like having a loving husband Derek, receiving a good education and enjoying great success on the track.
She did feel a major sting in being cut from Canada's track team for the London 2012 Summer Paralympics. Than she considered her mother, Sue Power Gallant of Stratford, battling severe cancer.
"I couldn't imagine anything worse (than being cut from the team), than mom got sick...it just changes perspective,'' she said.
Klawitter adds that she does not want to be viewed simply as visually impaired. Being seen as someone driven towards success, on the other hand, works just fine for her.
She welcomes the opportunity to speak with P.E.I. students, to urge them to find a voice, to be strong, to cope, to move forward: to be resilient.
"I'm excited to do it and I hope I can help some kids,'' she said.
"I just want to be real and to the point.''