Eleven-year-old gymnast Arianna Asarian aspires to win an Olympic gold medal one day – just like her role model Gabby Douglas.
The fifth grader from Our Lady of Guadalupe School, Dyker Heights, has been following Douglas’ career since the 2012 Olympic Games, striving to reach the same heights in her own gymnastics pursuits.
“I think she’s amazing. I just look up to her so much,” Asarian said on a recent school day. “Everything she does is so graceful and beautiful. I want to try to get up to her level.”
So when she received a school assignment asking her to write 500 words on an African-American, past or present, with whom she would want to spend a day, the answer was simple.
“It would be a privilege for me to get to spend a day with Gabby Douglas,” Asarian wrote in her two-page essay.
She put down that she would ask Douglas about training, pointers and bouncing back after injuries, which Asarian knows about firsthand. She would ask about the bullying that caused Douglas to almost give up her dream, and where she sees herself in 10 years.
Asarian’s teacher, Linda LaBarbera, entered all of her students’ essays into Cablevision’s Black History Month contest. More than 770 students submitted entries from across the tri-state area, and Asarian was the grand-prize winner on the elementary level.
In late April, she received her award – an iPad Air and a keyboard – from Cablevision representatives at a school assembly in her honor. Special guests included Msgr. Robert J. Romano, pastor, and Father Andrew Soley, CSSp, parochial vicar. Liz Ferrier, Cablevision’s director of government and public affairs, presented the prize.
What made Asarian’s essay compelling, Ferrier said, is that she expressed through her words how she identifies with and is able to relate to Douglas through the challenges and joys of their shared interest.
“It’s great that she made that personal connection and looks at her as a role model,” Ferrier said.
“We want them (students) to look for role models and see all of the great contributions African-Americans have made to our country.”
For Our Lady of Guadalupe’s fifth grade, participation in the contest was the culmination of a month’s worth of studies devoted to celebrating black history.
“During February, they researched famous African-Americans, and we did character profiles, historical cinquains and biographies,” LaBarbera noted.
At the award ceremony, Asarian was proud to share her essay with her school community and guests. In it, she references Douglas’ book “Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith.”
“Gabby tells her story of ‘faith, perseverance and determination,’ demonstrating you can reach your dreams if you let yourself soar,” Asarian said. “It teaches us that we can accomplish anything we truly want in life if we work hard for it.”
Both LaBarbera and Sister Dolores F. Crepeau, C.S.J., principal, beamed with pride as Asarian accepted her award.
“I feel so ecstatic that Arianna has won this contest,” Sister Dolores said. “She is so inclusive of every person in our school congregation. She believes that. She believes all of us should be open to caring about other people.”
Cablevision also presented certificates to the entire fifth-grade class for its participation in the contest.