The event was about driving social impact—and it had a huge impact on Canterbury students in attendance, who will not soon forget the story of Mallory Weggemann and Jeremy “Jay” Snyder ’01.
The couple joined about 100 students for “Driving Social Impact Through the Power of Storytelling,” a Zoom presentation that was part of the School’s Social Justice Series this winter. Their story is one of resilience, perseverance, and determination—traits that helped Mallory immeasurably after an unspeakable incident. When she was just 18, she walked in for a seemingly routine epidural injection to treat post-shingles back pain and came out a T10-complete paraplegic. Yet, today, Mallory is a Paralympic Gold Medalist, ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) Award winner, successful author and businesswoman, and inspiration to many.
Jay was indeed inspired when he met Mallory. “I have had the great fortune of finding my purpose; not just in my career, but in life,” he said. “Mallory and I fundamentally believe that we all have the power to leave a positive impact on our world, evoking change, even if just in our little corner of it. She has helped me become the best version of myself, and to be able to share our life together is such a gift.”
Students in attendance were likewise inspired by Mallory’s story, according to Misi Babington, Head Athletic Trainer and Associate Director of Athletics. “She had to redefine herself. Since she was a teen, she has been living with this and figuring out how to navigate it. This is who I am and this is my life and what am I going to do with it? (Television broadcaster) Robin Roberts always said, ‘Make your mess your message.’ And Mallory clearly has.”
Jay and Mallory are determined to share their message around the world through TFA Group, an agency and production studio they co-founded to change the perception of disability in our society through the power of storytelling. The company combines their two passions—sports and production—with the goal of providing representation for and telling the stories of Paralympic athletes and other individuals with disabilities.
Jay was glad for the chance to share their experience with students at his alma mater. “Our greatest hope is that we were able to empower them to lead with purpose,” he said. “We wanted to stress the importance of representation and its impact on how we form perceptions in society, which in return directly impacts equity and inclusion. We all have a responsibility to do our part to support a more diverse world.”
Mallory’s story certainly showed Canterbury students what was possible. “We were given an insight into her journey as an Olympic athlete, which was truly inspiring,” said Anne Celestino ’24. “It gave me a new perspective on my own challenges and aspirations, and made us all reflect on our current lives and talents.”
The presentation led Jay to reflect on his own time at the School. “Speaking with Canterbury students who were sitting in the very same seats I sat in 20 years ago was surreal,” he shared. “I could not help but think about how far my journey has come and felt beyond grateful for the impact my time on the hilltop had on building me into who I am today.”
Language Chair Keiko Mathewson was gratified by how much Jay’s Canterbury education shaped his life and career. “That is always a good thing for our students to hear, when graduates come back and connect their ‘now’ life to what Canterbury meant to them.”
Student Jakari Liston ’22 agreed. “The values that Canterbury instilled in Jay helped him align with what Mallory envisioned, so when they met, he was not afraid of how hard it would be to get that movement going,” he said. “Hearing them gave me goosebumps. It takes one person to kickstart a revolution, and that is just what Jay and Mallory are doing.”