"I enjoyed speaking to the kids and seeing their smiles," said Joetta Clark Diggs, a four-time Olympian and former South Orange Middle School student. "I love hearing the kids asking questions and responding to my questions."
Diggs, who competed in track and field, spoke to SOMS sixth graders and South Mountain School fifth graders on Wednesday morning in the middle school's Sterling Hall. During the event, two documentaries were shown depicting her track and field career.
"She has accomplished amazing things," said SOMS principal Kirk E. Smith.
The hometown hero, who was born in East Orange, graduated from Columbia High School in 1980 and went on to the University of Tennessee. She was named by the Star-Ledger as NJ's Woman Athlete of the Century, and Sports Illustrated once called her "the top high school prospect."
She spoke to students about her education in the district and her incredible journey to the Olympics in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000. She told students that to fulfill their Olympic dreams, they should stay in school, like she did. She also advised them to make good choices in life, noting that she skipped her own CHS graduation to try out for the 1980 Olympics.
"In life, there are a lot of cutoffs and distractions... (So) be the best you can be," she said.
"I think that it is a great experience for middle school students to see a four-time Olympian that actually went to SOMS," said Sandy Sandoli, a member of the SOMS Home and School Association, who helped bring Diggs to SOMS. She noted that she had purchased an autographed copy of Diggs's book, " Joetta's "P" Principles for Success," for the SOMS Library.
Jared Kofsky is a 12-year-old student in the SO-M school district, who is a local history buff and train historian.