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It was a huge mountain to climb, knowing that reaching the peak was starting in a hospital bed for 7 months fighting for my life. At this time, when I had to make the choice "Paralympics or Student Assemblies, my school programs were becoming very popular, with ambitious of going global. I have been hired multiple years by Bakersfield School district to work with their inner city schools, along with many other schools in many districts all over California. Last year I did over assemblies. People have asked why I need to choose between Paralympics and student assemblies?

There are only so many hours in the day and I need more! Whatever I do in life I give my entire "being" to it. The reality is that I am not going to divorce my beautiful wife, I am not going to leave my position as the Peer Counselor for Children's Hospital in Fresno.

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This leaves room for only one more major time consuming passion in my life. My choice was very difficult and emotional.

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I am a 2 sport Paralympian with an Olympic medal. I am also tied with only one other athlete for having the most national championships in wheelchair rugby. We both have 6 national championships. I also have many world team cup championships in both rugby and tennis. As I receive so much love and positive feed back from my presentations it became easier and easier to make this very difficult decision. I have had a girl tell me that my time and autobiography was the reason she did not take her life. She contacted me and said that If I could deal with my adversities, she too could deal with her pain.

I have also had students tell me that they will no longer "bully" after having me on their campus.

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I have worked with every type of school and student that you could imagine. I have presented at schools where a student was shot and killed the day before I was scheduled. I have worked in wealthy communities where every student had an Ipad and the school bought books for the students. I have also worked in poorer communities where the students only had the basics and not much more.

What is powerful about message and my life is that my "story" crosses all lines of wealth and adversity. Students need to understand the "hardest things you have to work for will mean the most to them. I am at peace with my decision to choose "students" over Paralympics. When you know you are changing lives, life takes on a different meaning and importance. I will end this blog the same way my autobiography ended stating, "I ended up at a higher place than the place from which I fell.

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I worked with schools in northern California all the way to southern California and many schools in between. This school year I worked with many different grades and different students. This what made this year special. I worked with disabled students, deaf students, special education students and "regular" ed students.

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I worked with schools that were wealthy, where students had Ipads and were filming me speaking to them. I have also worked in "low income" districts, where I was told to park by school staff because it would be the safest. There was a school in northern CA where a student was shot and killed the day before I was scheduled to come. They called and asked if I wanted to cancel or change the date.

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I said, absolutely NOT. This is when my program is needed the most. It was an emotional day that went great and changed lives! Usually a school's PTA, teacher or principal gets in touch with me, to book my assemblies. It was a big step to have a district believe in me and understand what I can bring to students and staff! Another special part of this year was being asked to come back to schools multiple times or do 2 day programs back to back, so that we could have smaller assemblies, making them more intimate and powerful.

I saw students with tears, as well as, teachers and principals with tears. This is a great sign to me because it shows that we are affecting people below the surface. I am getting to the hearts and souls! I hope to do more in the - school year. We are already starting to plan a few of them. I will also be going out of state for the first time when schools start back up next year.

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  • This is very exciting and I am looking forward to this new opportunity. My vision is to be global and have that kind of impact. People have asked me what my favorite moments were? This is an impossible question to answer. Every school had special moments. Now that I am thinking about it I can say that my favorite moments are the hugs that I get from so many students.

    Some of these hugs are so heart felt. They have been from pre-K to the "toughest" high school students. In the next blog post I am going share some of my frustrations because I want to be fair and balanced. Not everything is always positive, but when I get to the students the negativity I had to endure was worth it every time. A first grader wrote me a letter this year that breaks my entire program down and reinforces why I do what I do. The letter said, "Mr. Poppen has big muscles and makes kids happy.

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    Sometimes I show up at their school to answer certain questions in person. I know how a "special moment" can affect a person and have an impact. I try and create these moments at all my assemblies. Thank you to everyone who supported my programs in any way. Thank you to all the schools, PTA'S, parents, teachers and administrations that trusted me with their kids.

    It was a pleasure and blessing on my side. I am looking forward to many more schools and moments in the next school year. I can always be reached for questions about my assemblies, books or regarding my availability.. Thank you in advance for considering my programs. I am so thankful for all the amazing moments that I have been apart of and look forward to even more amazing moments if that is possible.

    On facebook I do not share the private negative messages I receive or the frustrating aspects of what I am trying to do in this world and some do not 'get it'. When talking about negative messages or aspects of my program I will never use "true" names, but will be honest with the positive and negative.

    I have never "cold called" for a presentation. Our friendship slowly blossomed into a relationship and shortly after I knew I was going to marry him. I remember telling all my friends how embarrassed I was because after a wine night I had told him I was going to marry him one day and had no idea if he felt the same way. Thankfully he did too and eventually we had a more serious conversation about rings, proposals and a wedding.

    Brent always told me he would never propose on vacation because I would be expecting it, so of course any time we planned a trip the thought of him proposing never came to mind. Since Machu Picchu has always been on my bucket list and I am a native Colombian, we decided that a trip to South America would be a completely different adventure than our trip to Europe. A couple of weeks before we left on our trip he suggested that we have our friends video our time in Peru since I had always wanted to visit Machu Picchu.

    We explored the ruins and took pictures before starting our hike at AM. This was not an easy hike, it took us almost two hours to get to the top and the altitude made it even more difficult. A couple of our best friends were hiking a little slower and Brent kept backtracking to make sure they were still making it up, he wanted to make sure they would be there for when he proposed. Once he found the best spot on the mountain with a breathtaking view he called me over for a picture. Our best friends were taking pictures and secretly taking videos the whole time!

    He then asked me to marry him while all of our friends were crying and cheering in the back.