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Student-athletes team up with School 43 to promote literacy

by Mathieu Starke - Staff Photographer
Tue, Nov 12th 2019 09:00 pm
Approximately 27 College at Brockport student-athletes traveled to School 43 to promote literacy with the Giant Read Event.
Approximately 27 College at Brockport student-athletes traveled to School 43 to promote literacy with the Giant Read Event.

The College of Brockport Athletics Department sent a group of student-athletes to Theodore Roosevelt School No. 43 of the Rochester Central School District (RCSD) on Friday, Oct. 25, as a part of the Giant Read Event.    

The event focuses on promoting literacy to young students and correlates with the “READ: Hope in Action” program, which connects student-athletes to students at the school. This year approximately 27 athletes made the trip into Rochester, along with Ellsworth, the eagle mascot of the college, to read, play games and interact with the second grade classes at School 43. Students with also given goodie bags during the event.

“All of the students receive a goodie bag,” Associate Athletic Director at The College of Brockport and one of the coordinators of the event, Susan Hoffman said. “Not only do they get a book, but they also received a pen and some paper, a toothbrush and toothpaste and some of those essential things.”

Amy Eck is a member of the gymnastics team and participated in the event. She said while working with the kids, “even just using something like a colorful pen would make them want to write more and these are like second grade kids, so they were learning handwriting and spelling and stuff like that.”

Hoffman noted last year the athletes did not get to sit down and talk with the students as much as they wanted to, so that was critical this year.

“Our students were with them almost 40 minutes in the classroom,” Hoffman said. “Our athletes play every day. It’s special for the second graders to be in the gym playing, but it’s a student-athlete. They aren’t going to be on a team if they don’t have the student first.”

Hoffman is not the only person to see the athletes interest in working with the students. Tracy Eckert is a teacher at School 43 and a coordinator for the event.

“When they came into the classroom, or even when they were at the rotations [in the gym], they thoroughly enjoyed themselves,” Eckert said. “They liked reading books with them. They liked giving them the gifts or signing the autographs or whatever.”

Although the event put emphasis on the classroom, there was still time for some fun and games. The gym was broken up into different stations and students spent time at each station while the athletes and Ellsworth cheered them on. Hoffman feels those moments are opportunities for lessons.

“Just encouraging to be moving, just encouraging to be fit,” Hoffman said. “Just to be moving every day and how your body reacts to being limber and really reaching out to them and saying all the good things you learn from being a student-athlete.”

The event held value not just to the students but also to the student-athletes. Some of the athletes are in the middle of their seasons, getting ready for the weekend games and doing the same amount of schoolwork as any other student. Students like Eck have been in practices to get ready for the upcoming season.

“We’re all in community service projects and stuff, so that’s like another way to get out there and do that,” Eck said. “It’s always just rewarding working with the kids.”

The value of the event runs far deeper than just playing a game or reading a book, according to both Hoffman and Eckert.

“A lot of our kids have a lot of trauma,” Eckert said. “Rochester is a very high poverty city.”

Hoffman shared an experience she had a few years ago.

“I’ll never forget, years ago, one of the young boys was so excited to receive a toothbrush, because ‘now I don’t have to share it with my brothers and sisters,’” Hoffman said.

Hoffman, Eckert and Eck all noted the connections built through the event can be impactful beyond the classroom. 

“It’s very personal,” Eckert said. “They talked about their sport, and they talked about what they did to get into a college and then play sports.”

Eck said the children were excited to spend the day with the student-athletes. 

“There were girls coming up to me and my teammates, ‘oh my gosh you do gymnastics,’ ‘can you do a cartwheel,’ ‘can you do this,’ so they’re really excited,” Eck said. “When we were with them, we would help them read their book, and some of the teachers would suggest we play hangman with them. A lot of kids didn’t know it and we would work with them.”

Student-athletes sharing their stories with the children was a unique experience, Hoffman said.

“Each child had a bookmark where the child would sign their name, and the athlete would sign their name, and it was so special,” Hoffman said. “For some of these children, it was their first ever book. For our student-athletes to go in and just share their story and encourage them to do well in school and yes you can go to college — it’s really impactful for those youth and they remember.”


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