Sammi Tucker is teaching students in Sherrill, New York about persistence and focus, mindfulness and inner peace.
The U.S. Air Force veteran became the first woman to represent the United States in the Open Compound Para Archery Division during the 2016 Paralympics, a feat she accomplished after losing her left hand in a motorcycle accident that drastically changed her life, the Oneida Dispatch reports.
People learn best through story, experience, and indirection. Here as anticipated by researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture life lessons and moral culture are taught through the informal articulation of adult role models. They concluded, “The moral example of teachers unquestionably complemented the formal instruction students received, but arguably, it was far more poignant to, and influential upon, the students themselves.”
Tucker explained how the experience shifted her outlook, and how archery helped her refocus on the things that truly matter. In school, Tucker said she was withdrawn, and became sad and afraid after high school. Years later, she crashed her motorcycle after an emotional event, and the sleeve of her jacket got caught in the chain of the bike, resulting the loss of her hand. “I’m laying in the ditch and all I could think was that I was 41 years old and I didn’t know if my life mattered,” Tucker told students. “I didn’t know if I really loved anybody or if anything I did ever made a difference in anyone’s life.”
Tucker said she heard and felt God’s presence, and it propelled her to not only overcome the crash, but to rebuild her life with excitement. Along the way, she found archery. “When you’re shooting, you can see your inner thoughts reflected on your target,” she said. “It’s an amazing resource for connecting to yourself and building mindfulness skills. It really is meditation. I developed a tuned-in ability to what I was thinking, because even if I wasn’t on the range, I was so aware of what I was thinking and that translated into daily life. That self-awareness has probably been one of the most impactful things in my life. And for kids to develop that skill now, it’ll transfer into everything.”
The talk and archery demonstration – in which Tucker draws her 45-pound bow with her teeth – took part with students of a variety of ages at Warrior Archery, part of the Oneida Indian Nation’s Oneida Heritage Sales and Retail. It’s part of a character building partnership between the Oneida YMCA and Oneida Heritage.
Students were also encouraged to try archery themselves, with Tucker’s help and pointers from young archers like 5-year-old Molly McHugh who are already in the program. McHugh’s parents said archery has become an analogy for Molly to improve her life and those around her in a supportive environment.
“She’s very motivated and keeps pushing through,” Molly’s mother, Lynne McHugh told the Dispatch. “And while she’s tiny, it makes her feel powerful.”
“You get these three different age groups together, all focused on one target, pun intended, and look at how they’re all getting along, encouraging and supporting each other. There’s no bullying or negativity,” Tucker added. “There’s just fun and encouragement. I think that’s what the sport of archery is. It’s a competition with yourself that brings out your inner strength.”
Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students will find information, strategies and lesson plans at the UK’s The Jubilee Centre.