This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Delaware County Daily Times‘ website.
WEST CHESTER — If there was one message West Chester Henderson High School students could take away from Friday’s assembly, it was that no matter the obstacle standing in your way, you have the power to overcome it.
Even if it’s a matter of life or death, as junior Shay Sinha explained to his classmates, or being told you can’t, as former Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale said.
“You don’t know what you can do until you try,” Sinha said. “In my situation, there wasn’t an option of cannot. I had to persevere and just go through my struggle until the end. That’s when I learned not to devalue life, but to learn and embrace it. I learned time is finite. Life is finite. That’s one thing we have taken for granted — time.”
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A fan of mountain climbing, Sinha had tackled some peaks in the United States, but had the opportunity to take on a bigger obstacle when his parents took a trip to Switzerland.
“As a kid, I watched National Geographic and I saw videos of how people climbed Mount Everest and with all their preparation and training, they reached the top of the world,” he said to the gathered crowd. “The one sight that really engaged me was how you get to see the world above the clouds. It just seems so vast and infinite.”
Sinha tagged along on his parent’s 25th anniversary trip and saved up money to hire someone to take him up.
“The first day was a dream come true,” he said.
The junior tackled several obstacles along the way, climbing a glacier and getting around deep crevices.
But he was able to make it to the top, 14,000 feet in the air.
Then it all started to change.
“After a couple minutes, I experienced the graveness of my situation,” Sinha said. “It was windy, I was exposed and my adrenaline rush was starting to end.”
As he started the trek back down the mountain, Sinha started to become dizzy, uncoordinated and nauseous — the symptoms of altitude sickness.
“Now, I wasn’t in a fight with the mountain, but I was in a fight with my own body and mind,” he said.
He continued on, but things started to get worse as after every couple of steps, Sinha would fall into the snow and ice.
Sinha asked at one point if he could be helicoptered off the mountain, but the wind denied any possibility of that.
“It wasn’t even worth the rescue team’s lives for mine,” Sinha said. “I had to get to the bottom of the glacier before a rescue could take place.
“I told myself, ‘You have to pick yourself up and get yourself down the mountain at all costs.’”
Sinha fought through the sickness and the odds and was able to make it down the glacier and was air-lifted to a hospital.
“I could have crumbled under altitude sickness, but I had to learn that I had to accept the fact that I had a big obstacle to overcome,” he said. “I learned that things come up unexpected … and that’s when you know how strong your will and determination really is.”
As part of his senior project, Sinha reached out to someone else who pushed through the negative and lived his dream — Papale, the ultimate underdog who went from cheering on his favorite team in Veteran’s Stadium to actually playing for that very team.
“(Sinha) really wanted to spread the message of overcoming obstacles and he reached out to Vince Papale and asked if he would be willing to put on a program for students to spread the message,” said Henderson Principal Jason Sherlock. “Vince Papale was very gracious and said that he would come to the school for free if the school made a donation to the Wounded Warriors.”
Henderson got right to work and in just two weeks, the students were able to raise over $5,000 for Wounded Warriors.
“All the students have come together and have done just an excellent job,” Sherlock said. “It’s really great that this community came together. They’ve always been very, very generous, but this is such a worthwhile organization. I’m very proud of what our community and students have been able to accomplish.”
The entire process, from Sinha’s story to the amount of money raised by the school has been nothing short of astonishing for the former NFL player.
“(Sinha) told me what his project was and sent me some information,” Papale said. “It was just so compelling. There was no way I could not come. The amount was pretty shocking. I’m going to spread it out between the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team and also the Wounded Warriors. It just shows they care here at Henderson and that’s the important thing.”
Papale, who proved so many wrong when he made the Eagles in 1976, knew he had the chance before him to make his dream come true — as long as he was willing to fight for it.
“(Dick Vermeil) gave me an opportunity of a lifetime and he said this about dreams — ‘When you have a dream, it becomes a state of mind. It stays in your head and unless you’re willing to act on it and pay the price, that dream is never, ever going to come true,’” Papale said. “My dream came true. It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
Even though the movie “Invincible” is a play off Papale’s name, which he finds pretty cool, he believes that any one person can be invincible.
And that’s exactly what he told the students before him.
“Anybody that told you you can’t and you went ahead and did it, that makes you invincible,” Papale said. “Anybody that said you’re too this or too that and you went ahead and accomplished it anyway against great adversity — you made a tremendous decision — that’s what invincibility is all about.”