A Visit from an Emmy Award Winner and TPS Grandparent

Jade and Gina holding the Olympic torch that Gina carried and two of her Emmy Awards.

Jade and Gina holding the Olympic torch that Gina carried and two of her Emmy Awards.

On Friday, TPS middle schoolers were lucky to experience a presentation with TPS grandparent Gina Hemphill Strachan. Gina is the granddaughter of Olympic track and field athlete Jesse Owens, and she famously carried the Olympic torch at the Games Opening Ceremony in 1984. Today, she is the grandmother of seventh grader Jade and an 11-time Emmy Award winning television producer.  

Gina showed students the video of her running with the Olympic torch and spoke about questions the experience inspired: What can I do? Who am I? What can I create? She realized that while she may be the granddaughter of a famous athlete, her passion was storytelling.

She asked students, “What are you passionate about?” Students responded with a wide range of answers: art, school, comedy, soccer, football.

If students expressed dreams of going to Hollywood or becoming the next star athlete, Gina encouraged kids to “think big” and explained that those dreams can be achieved even if you are not the star on stage. She gave examples of the roles behind the scenes in support of the person on camera or on the field: producer, director, stage manager, agent, trainer—just to name a few.

Gina told the story of her single attempt at following in her grandfather’s footsteps as a track star. With her grandfather in the stands watching, she was the last one to pass the baton in her race. When she met up with her grandfather after the race, she was nervous that she had disappointed him. Gina was surprised and encouraged by his uplifting response when he said he was proud of her because she did her best on this day.

Gina urged our students to consider the myriad of opportunities that surround their passions, and she shared the lesson she learned from her grandfather’s supportive words, “I don’t have to be first or be the best in order to be great.”