As part of the Classroom Champions program, fifth-grade students in Park Street Intermediate School teacher Arin Kress' class communicated several times this school year with a mentor-athlete, paralympian Lex Gillette.

As part of the Classroom Champions program, fifth-grade students in Park Street Intermediate School teacher Arin Kress' class communicated several times this school year with a mentor-athlete, paralympian Lex Gillette.

Last month, the students got a chance to interact with Gillette in person.

Gillette's visit to Park Street was a class prize for being one of two nationwide winners in Classroom Champions' April Healthy Living Month contest.

Classroom Champions is a nonprofit organization that connects classrooms in the United States and Canada with Olympians and Paralympians.

Only 55 schools participated in the 2015-16 program.

"It's a great program," Kress said. "Each month there is a different theme that students explore, themes like perseverance, teamwork, leadership and fair play."

Classes participate in challenges and activities relating to each month's theme.

For the Healthy Living theme in April, Kress' class participated in a sticky note challenge, coming up with ideas relating to each word of the phrase "choose healthy living" and writing them on sticky notes; participated in a Skype call with a healthy living expert and created their versions of a "say no" game show.

Gillette held a meet and greet with Kress' students and their families May 23 and spent most of the day May 24 at the school.

In addition to the time he spent with the fifth-graders, Gillette also spoke to other Park Street students during assemblies.

Gillette began losing his sight at age 7, and after 10 unsuccessful operations, was totally blind by age 8.

He has won multiple medals in the paralympics and holds the record for long jump in the games. Gillette, 31, is training for the 2016 Paralympic games which will be held in September in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"I really enjoy being part of Classroom Champions," he said. "It's really rewarding for me. I had people who helped push me and encourage me after I lost my sight to persevere, and that's what I'm trying to do serving as a mentor-athlete."

The message he always tries to impart is to dream big, and not let obstacles keep people from reaching their goal, Gillette said.

Participating in Classroom Champions has been a llfe-changing experience, said fifth-grader Liv Yocum.

"You really learn a lot of about yourself and it changes the way you think about things," she said.

Working together on the Healthy Living projects helped classmates bond as a team, Cody Leonard said.

"You realize you can accomplish a lot more when you work together as a team than you can as an individual," Sarah Adams said.

Gillette has served as a real inspiration for her and her classmates, Sarah said.

The chance to meet Gillette "is a thrill and something I'll always carry with me," Cody said.