10/26/13 Setting the right example
Natalie Allison Janicello / Times-News
Angie Funan, right, a senior soccer player at Elon University, plays a potato sack game with students at Elon Elementary School on Friday as part of Make a Difference Day. Around 90 Elon student-athletes participated in the annual initiative.
Setting the right example
Elon student-athletes promote literacy for Make a Difference Day
By Natalie Allison Janicello The Times-News 10/26/13
Reprinted with permission.
ELON — Between their schedules packed with classes, games, workouts and practices, some student-athletes at Elon University took time this week to help other area students — all in the name of making a difference.
The national Make a Difference Day, which is actually today, prompted a local representative from the UNC Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education to reach out to Phoenix athletes to help local elementary, middle and English-as-a-second-language students.
Approximately 90 athletes read to students at Elon Elementary, talked with students at Western Middle School and worked with ESL students at Alamance Community College this week. On Friday, some of the athletes returned to Elon Elementary to attend a quarterly celebration the school holds for students’ positive behavior.
Kristine Gamblin, who works at Alamance Community College as part of SCALE and a federally sponsored LiteracyCorps program, said she reached out to Faith Shearer, associate athletic director at Elon University, to recruit athletes to come help in the schools.
“We wanted to promote literacy through community service,” Gamblin said.
At the elementary school, the athletes read to students a children’s book called “The Energy Bus,” based on an adult version of the same name. The student-athletes set an example for promoting literacy by reading to children in each of the school’s classrooms, and then by talking with them about having a positive attitude and other character-related issues.
At Western Middle, Gamblin said Elon athletes and public officials went to each classroom and talked with students about similar issues.
At ACC, eight of the athletes sat down with ESL students, working on conversation skills and using flash cards.
“ACC was such an impact (on the athletes),” Gamblin said.
Shearer said the Elon University students were taken by the fact they were helping people older than them learn to speak English. She said the university’s athletes have been in involved in other community service projects in the past, but this was the first time they did something for Make a Difference Day.
“I hope that we do it again,” Shearer said. “Absolutely, we want to.”
Jason Waterman, a senior soccer player at Elon, said he remembers being in elementary school and looking up to older athletes.
“I remember when I was this age, and I would look at college soccer players,” Waterman said. “It was almost like they aren’t real people. We’re just trying to give back in any way, and it’s really rewarding.”
Before students were released to play games at the carnival-themed celebration, Principal Jack Davern talked to them about doing something to help others.
“Saturday is a day you can go out and volunteer,” Davern said. “If you can’t go out anywhere, you can make a difference at home or on your own street.”
In addition to the student-athletes from Elon University, several local public officials were in attendance at the ceremony for fourth- and fifth-graders before their celebration.