The Orange Bowl Committee announced Monday night that Christopher Volpe, a student-athlete from Jupiter High School, is the second recipient of the Orange Bowl Beigel-Feis-Hixon Valor Award. Volpe, who was nominated for the award by his track coach, was diagnosed with Asperger’s after his freshman year of high school and recently led his cross-country team to its first state championship appearance in 17 years while also excelling academically.
This annual award honors Marjory Stoneman Douglas coaches Scott Beigel (cross-country coach and geography teacher), Aaron Feis (assistant football coach and security guard) and Chris Hixon (wrestling coach and athletic director) who lost their lives protecting their colleagues and students in the senseless tragedy that occurred on Feb. 14, 2018 at the Parkland school. The award is designed to salute an outstanding South Florida student-athlete who exhibits valor and courage in the face of adversity, and consists of a $10,000 scholarship.
Orange Bowl Committee Member Anthony Barbar presented the scholarship during a surprise presentation at the school’s senior awards ceremony to Chris’ mother, Sandie Volpe. Debbie Hixon, wife of Chris Hixon, and Melissa Feis, wife of Aaron Feis, were also present to award the scholarship.
“The Orange Bowl Committee is proud to announce Christopher Volpe as the second recipient of this significant award, which honors the memory of these courageous and heroic individuals from Stoneman Douglas,” said Orange Bowl Committee President and Chair José Romano. “Chris’ ability to persevere on a daily basis, while also being a leader as a student-athlete and a classmate, makes him very well deserving of this scholarship.”
Once Chris was diagnosed with Asperger’s, which is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder, he began to learn how to deal with complexities and adverse situations that he did not understand. With the help of others, he realized that he was not alone in his feelings of confusion, anger and disappointment.
“I have learned to adapt to society,” said Chris. “I am an extremely high-functioning, social 17 year-old (and) although I am considered to be on the autism spectrum, I do not allow the label of Asperger’s to define who I am.”
Chris continues to adapt and fight through adversity on a daily basis. In addition to being a standout athlete for the junior varsity soccer team, varsity track and field team, and team captain of the cross-country team, he is a member of several honors societies on campus, and serves as President of the National Social Studies Honor Society. Chris is ranked toward the top of his class with a 4.0 GPA and has logged more than 340 hours of community service. He also secured his PADI Advanced Open Water Scuba Certification.
“Growing up with Asperger’s has given me the ability to acclimate better than most people in certain situations, be more patient with others, and to appreciate laughter as a way of navigating through particularly difficult moments,” said Chris.
According to his track coach, Matthew Perry, Chris has been a leader on his track team since his sophomore year and recently led the cross-country team to its first state championship appearance in 17 years. “He ran his best time of the year, on the hardest course of the year,” said Perry. “This just re-enforces how he will always overcome any challenge put before him.”
Chris will attend the U.S. Naval Academy.