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Cross country runner makes a difference in the lives of others

Senior Grace Lynch always wanted to teach. For her, every little interaction with kids can help shape their lives.

“There’s so much room to love on kids,” said the early childhood education major. “School is a place that kids can feel safe and welcomed even if that’s not necessarily their home life, so it gives me a really good opportunity to not only teach students about academics but also about life skills and show them they are loved.”

Lynch chose to attend Georgia College, in part, due to the stellar reputation of the College of Education. Solidifying her decision was the chance to be a member of the university’s cross country team.

“I saw the education program was very strong, and I knew I always wanted to be a teacher so that caught my interest,” she said. “Also the cross country coach when I came in, he just really welcomed me with open arms and so did the athletic community. I just felt like I fit in.”

Lynch owns the school's tenth-best 5K time of 19:07, set at 2017 Peach Belt Championships. She’s been named a two-time Peach Belt Conference (PBC) All-Academic Team, received the PBC Sportsmanship Award in 2016 and has numerous other academic awards.

She’s excelled both in the classroom and on the race courses, but she stumbled on to a new passion unexpectedly, and now it’s a driving force in her life.

While working the  Peachtree Road Race a few years ago, she saw Brett Peace pushing his brother Kyle across the finish line. They founded the Kyle Peace Foundation, which creates awareness and raises funds to promote success for persons with disabilities by providing assistance to meet their individual needs through sports. The organization pairs able-bodied athletes with those with disabilities to allow them to compete in races

“I reached out to them after that, and now I run in a lot of their races when I’m not in season for cross country just to support them in what they’re doing,” said Lynch. “I’ve run half marathons, 5Ks and 8Ks—a bunch of different distances with them.”

This new-found passion led her to set a lofty goal for herself—to be the first woman in the southeast to complete an Ironman with someone with disabilities. An Ironman is a triathlon that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles bicycle ride and a 26.22 mile run. That dream was born from her work with current disabled athletes.

“You look back on the really hard days that you’re having, and it helps you remember your ‘why’ because when I get on a course my main goal is to help my athlete experience what I’m experiencing, so I tell them ‘man, my legs really hurt, but we are going to push up this hill.’”

“Every single person I’ve ever pushed always throws their hands up when they get to the end of the race as an accomplishment,” said Lynch. “I have those pictures posted all around my house just to remind me for those awesome experiences.”

For now, she’s continuing to pull impressive stats during this cross country season while honing her skills as an educator. She’s even leaving a lasting legacy in the College of Education through her leadership in the student chapter of Georgia Association for the Education of Young Children (SGAEYC)).

“We just received a $25,000 grant to bring a dyslexia simulation and workshop to Georgia College,” she said. “As part of that, there will be a simulation to understand what students with dyslexia experience, and then we will give students and teachers tips and tricks to help assist students with dyslexia. We will also have a resource cart here at Georgia College for student teachers and teachers to take out into their classrooms.”

The organization also sent books to a partner school in Belize to assist with literacy skills. Lynch studied abroad at that same school.

As she gets set for graduation in May 2020, she’s proud of the journey and experiences she’s received at Georgia College.

“It’s been far greater than I ever could have imagined. I remember coming here and thinking this is going to be fun,” said Lynch. “I never thought I’d be stretched as far as an educator or that I’d be so confident going into the classroom and creating lesson plans for my students. It’s all because I’ve been prepared so well.”

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