HAMPDEN, Maine — Olympic luger Julia Clukey spoke with students at Reeds Brook Middle School on Monday afternoon armed with a new educational weapon — a college degree.
Clukey, the Augusta resident who finished 17th in the women’s singles competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and narrowly missed making the U.S. squad again in 2014, recently graduated from DeVry University with a bachelor of science degree in engineering technology and electronics.
The 2003 Cony High School graduate has spent the last four years making time to take online classes between training, competitions and making motivational presentations to more than 12,000 students at schools around Maine through her relationship with the Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association.
The 30-year-old Clukey completed her degree in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Committee’s partnership with DeVry University.
“Both my parents were educators, so I grew up valuing the importance of academics,” she said. “My degree means a lot to me, and I am really grateful for the support of the USOC and the program with DeVry University. The program allowed me to accomplish this goal while competing in the sport I love. I also really appreciate the support from my friends and family.”
Clukey spoke to the Reeds Brook middle-schoolers as part of her “Julia Inspires” campaign that also included stops last week at Massabesic High School in Waterboro and Skowhegan Area High School.
The presentations focus on encouraging students to find their passion, create a plan and go after their dreams. As part of her message, she discusses overcoming adversity and sharing how she nearly qualified for the 2014 Olympics, missing the team by 13 thousandths of a second.
Upcoming presentations will take Clukey to Bonny Eagle High School in Standish on April 12, Whitefield Elementary School on April 29, John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor on May 2, Auburn Middle School on May 6, Machias Memorial High School on May 10, Cony Middle School and Cony High School on May 11, and Erskine Academy of South China on May 19.
This summer, she also will host her annual Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls at Camp KV in Readfield.
Clukey was inspired to try the sport of luge with the promise of a free T-shirt at a USA Slider Search in downtown Portland at age 12, and she has competed in the sport for 17 years.
In addition to her Olympic appearance, she won the U.S. National Championship in 2012 and has earned two silver medals in World Cup competition.
Clukey, a Maine Sports Hall of Fame inductee, plans to train this summer to prepare for the 2016-17 season and eventually hopes to earn a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team that will compete in PyeongChang, Korea.