Nadia 3 Dec 2015 IMG 4135


Hopkins receives Triumph of the Human Spirit Award

By Melissa Lowrie, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Nadia Hopkins isn’t your typical high school junior.

In November, she won an award honoring the best in leadership in adaptive sports. “Those who exude a positive attitude and who inspire, motivate and truly epitomize the Triumph of the Human Spirit,” according to

Of the honor, Nadia said, “Receiving the 2015 Triumph of the Human Spirit Award was very exciting and extremely humbling. I was so happy to be among the 77 nominees, but in no way did I expect to be an actual award recipient. After arriving at the awards venue, I started to feel out of place when I read the list of nominees. It included people with disabilities who had been to the Paralympics, as well as medical researchers, coaches, organizations like the Georgia High School Association and even Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta, where I have been a patient.

“When they called my name, I was shocked and confused because this was beyond my expectations. I was just proud to be a nominee, but winning was never a consideration. My greatest takeaway from the evening was after the ceremony, when young children with disabilities asked me to take pictures with them. At that moment, I realized I could possibly be a role

Nadia in Russia
Nadia in Russia 

model and inspiration for children who may need my guidance. That alone would be more rewarding than a million awards.”

Adopted from a Russian orphanage at the age of 8, Nadia endured 13 surgeries before her ninth birthday. Spina bifida, club feet, one kidney and a hip deformity never deterred this vibrant soul from aiming high.

In a speech she wrote in middle school, Nadia reflected on her time before her adoption, “If I saw friends playing on the playground, I’d run and play with them. I ignored all the physical problems that limited my abilities. Instead, I had a lot of optimism, strength and courage to do whatever my mind was set to do.”

The girl on the Russian playground has a new life in Big Canoe with her parents Bill and Patricia Hopkins and sister Abby, 15. After a difficult adoption process, her family brought her home nine years ago. More surgeries, an American school and learning English began her drastically different existence.

Always up for a challenge, Nadia began swimming for the Pickens SeaDragons in fourth grade under Coach Debra Johnson. She discovered she loved swimming and was good at it.

About five years ago at a swim meet, she met a disabled swimmer who introduced Nadia’s family to BlazeSports. The organization provides individuals “with physical disabilities the chance to play sports and live healthy, active lives,” according to Since that time, she has been swimming with BlazeSports as well as the SeaDragons.

Along with swimming, Nadia has taken up Paracanoe, training with the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. She’s been training for about a year now and says competing in the Paralympics in 2020 is one of her goals. Of her two chosen sports she said, “I love both of them.”

Wildwood Christian Academy Assistant Head of School Leslie Head said, “Nadia is one of the most hardworking students with whom I have had the opportunity to work. She is disciplined, determined, and never does less than her very best.”

Nadia rocks!” This from teacher Mark Barnett. “Not only does she work incredibly hard academically, she always strives to be considerate and understanding of everyone, qualities I have great respect for. Nadia is the kind of student that inspires me to be a better teacher.”

Indeed, Nadia inspires everyone.


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