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From the court to the classroom

Literacy, not layups, are WJU basketball team's focus
By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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Third-graders at Coyote Ridge Elementary School got a 6-foot surprise on Wednesday. William Jessup University’s men’s basketball team swapped their slam dunks for Shel Silverstein poems and classroom art projects to relay a message of literacy and education to their third-grade counterparts. “Giving back and volunteering in the community is part of what William Jessup is all about,” said head basketball coach Aaron Muhic. “This is a way to create relationships with the students and show that part of being a good athlete is being a good student.” The team split up and hit eight third-grade classrooms to read books and poems aloud to the students and help with follow-up classroom activities. “I’m so thrilled that they came out to do this,” said third-grade teacher Cara Heister. “The kids were so surprised to see them and I think will really appreciate getting to spend some time with them.” Nicole Bussell, wife of William Jessup men’s basketball assistant coach Jeff Bussell, chose poems from Shel Silverstein’s “A Light in the Attic” for the players to read and follow up with a brief writing assignment about the poems. Heister, going with the sports related theme of her visitors, chose “The Centerfield Ball Hawk,” a story by Matt Christopher for the players to read. “I wanted to have them read something about sports and about goals,” Heister said. “I figured it would be a good way for the kids to think up some New Year’s resolutions.” The players folded themselves into their miniature chairs and got down to business reading the story about a baseball outfielder with hopes of someday catching the ball for an out, paying special attention to give each character life with different voices and inflections. “Children just love adult fluency and imagining the characters by how they’re heard,” Heister said. In order to make the visit run smoothly, Heister printed a list of tips like icebreaker questions and reminders to read slowly for the players to reference. Greg Giron, a freshman at William Jessup University majoring in psychology was excited to read to the third-graders and shared with the students his favorite book as a child, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” “Elementary school feels like such a long time ago now, this brings back so many memories,” Giron said. “I love being around kids. It’s refreshing to see their excitement and interest in what we’re doing.” Adam Hansen, a third-grader in Heister’s class said he loved that the players changed their voice depending on the character and said it made reading “more fun than when I have to read on my own.” After hearing the story that focused on setting goals and working to achieve them, the students were asked to identify their own goals which they then made into “cool resolution” penguins that would be displayed throughout the classroom. William Jessup junior Lucas Domingue helped his group of third graders refine their “cool resolutions” into babysteps that would lead to their success in achieving their goals. Sabrina Melo Chew said she’d like to eat fewer sweets. “That’s a good one, you won’t get tummy aches then,” Domingue said. “What else could you eat when you want sweets? What about some fruit, that’s healthier than candy.” Other resolutions included doing better in math, mastering long division and getting better scores on timed tests. After reading, the players were invited to join the students out at recess. The game of choice? A third grade versus William Jessup basketball tournament.