An Olympian thanked Fairfield school officials Tuesday for helping her scale the heights of athletic success.
Julie Chu, who's won two silver medals and a bronze medal as a player on the U.S. Olympic women's hockey team, attended Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting to thank Fairfield school officials for helping to instill values in her that made her an Olympian.
"It's wonderful to be back in Fairfield ... This is really the community I grew up in and that shaped who I am," Chu said. "When I think back to those times, I'm so fortunate to give back to a community that helped me become an Olympian."
Chu, who attended North Stratfield School from 1988 to 1994 and Fairfield Woods Middle School from 1994 to 1997, also came bearing a gift -- she designated Fairfield public schools as the recipient of a $10,000 check from BP America Inc., which is sponsoring her and five other athletes in their quest for gold medals at the Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Russia. In addition to sponsoring the athletes, BP also is donating money to a charity of the athlete's choice.
Chu, a forward on the women's hockey team, said Fairfield's public schools helped to teach her respect, courage and the importance of having a voice. She said the school system also provided a safe environment for students to express their opinions.
Chu also thanked her family for installing values and courage in her. "My family still lives in Fairfield. They're the ones who are my backbone," she said. "I appreciate them dearly."
Neil Geary, BP America's general manager of Government and Public Affairs on the East and Gulf coasts, said Chu's values align with those of BP, which he identified as excellence, teamwork, safety, courage and respect. He said Chu achieved excellence, exhibited courage in playing a rough sport, worked with teammates to pursue a shared goal, has respect for her opponents and protected herself on the ice with equipment.
"An unstated BP value is giving back to the community in which we live, work and play, and we're very pleased to be behind Julie, women's ice hockey and the Olympic movement," Geary said.
Chu gave credit to BP America for supporting both Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Karen Parks, deputy superintendent of schools, said Chu plans early next year to participate in her fourth Olympics as a women's ice hockey player, which Parks said is "not an easy sport." She said Chu's family remains appreciative of her education in Fairfield and BP's check reflects that gratitude.
Chu, now an assistant coach for the women's ice hockey team at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., earned silver medals at the 2002 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games and a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. As a member of the U.S. women's national ice hockey team since 2000, she earned four gold medals and four silver medals in the world championships, and four gold medals and seven silver medals in the Four Nations Cup, according to information provided by the school board.
Chu posed for pictures with audience members after the presentation of BP's check. Several who held Chu's silver medal said they were surprised by how heavy it was.
Chu said one of the perks of traveling is identifying her hometown as "Fairfield, CT" on forms she has to fill out. "Hands down, that's never going to change," she said.