Students at The Henry Viscardi School will get an inspirational visit Wednesday from J.R. Martinez, the U.S. Army veteran who is a motivational speaker, author and winner of Season 13 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
Martinez, 30, sustained burns over 40 percent of his body from an improvised explosive device near Karbala, Iraq, in April 2003.
Students at the school for children and young adults with severe physical disabilities “are going to see a story of resilience, hope and optimism they might not see every day,” said Diana DeVivio, the school’s superintendent and principal. “We are looking forward to a meeting of the minds and the hearts.”
Martinez is to address the student body as a whole as well as smaller groups, school officials said. Adolescents and adults with disabilities in the Viscardi Center’s school-to-work transition and employment training and placement services also will attend the assembly, DeVivio said.
One message Martinez said he hopes to impart to the school’s 180 students, from prekindergarten through age 21, is to not let their disabilities define them.
“They shouldn’t look at their disability as a limitation,” Martinez said. “They have to make a choice to diss the ‘dis’; then what they have left is ability.”
The school, founded in 1962 by Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr., offers students with severe physical disabilities -- some of whom require life-sustaining medical treatment throughout the day -- a traditional educational setting with rigorous academics and other opportunities for personal growth and leadership development.
It serves children with disabilities who are referred by school districts on Long Island, in New York City and Westchester County.
Martinez’s visit was made possible, in part, by a member of the school’s board of trustees who has a connection to him, the school said.