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Purnell Support Center Students Treated to Inspirational Author Visit

Friend of Principal LaRocque is overcoming odds with ALS.


Purnell Support Center students in the TEAMS (Teaching for Emotional, Academic and Motivational Success) program received an inspirational visit from author Clint Townsend on Feb. 4.

Townsend has written two books, “The Folds” and “XN: X to The Nth,” through Eyegaze (an advanced technology system that allows communication from the eyes) since being diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 2006. He is a personal friend of Purnell Support Center Principal Shawnda LaRocque, who helped set up the visit. She is glad she did.

“Clint was absolutely amazing and very inspiring to our students,” said LaRocque, who grew up near the Townsend family in El Paso, Texas. “As a teacher, I always looked for ways for students to experience learning since that style can make such a personal impression.”

Townsend showed students how he writes with Eyegaze, as well as how his ventilator and chair works. He shared his ALS story, how he got the ideas for his books and how he is able to play video games with his eyes. He also took joy in speaking about his appreciation for family and his life as an athlete, drummer and singer.

“The students were fascinated,” LaRocque said. “Afterwards, one shared with him that he had impacted their life so deeply they found new value in their own life.”

Townsend was able to sign autographs for the students using ink on his thumb. He looks forward to staying in touch through email and Facetime, especially after many students plan on reading his books and want to discuss them further.

In addition to the nearly 30 students (elementary through high school age), Purnell Support Center teachers, paraprofessionals and staff members enjoyed the one-hour visit in the cafeteria.

“It was truly a life-changing experience for everyone,” LaRocque said. “The adults were also sharing with Clint how he impacted them and there were many tears of joy. Everyone is excited to stay in touch.”

To learn more about Clint Townsend, click here.