Soccer players reach out to Riverside students
May 3, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) They stared up at the soccer players with the big, curious eyes of second graders. It was a new experience, having these tall athletes in their classroom with its kid-sized desks and fun posters.
But on April 27, Linda Fattic’s 24 young charges at La Sierra Elementary came alive as they divided into small groups and settled into reading the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright with members of the La Sierra University Golden Eagles soccer team.
The Golden Eagles spent portions of each day last week reading to children in kindergarten through second grade at the school on Pierce Street, just down from the university.
La Sierra University’s athletic department encourages all of its sports teams to engage in community service and with that in mind, soccer Head Coach Jesse Olivas devised the reading program for the elementary school. He drew upon an experience five years ago creating a tutoring and reading project with his brother, Chris Keller, at a school in Hobbs, New Mexico. The project became an afterschool program. Now Olivas wants to engage in similar activities in the area with his players. “I’ve been wanting to get something started here,” he said. “Just getting the kids excited about school, that’s the biggest thing. And it’s definitely good for the guys [soccer players] too.”
On Wednesday, the team’s forward Anthony Trevino sat at a shaded picnic table outside Fattic’s classroom. Across from him sat three boys and three girls, each taking turns reading pages of their current class book on the Wright brothers. Some read quickly and with inflection, others haltingly. One shyly declined to read while Trevino tried coaxing her into trying a portion of a page.
Afterward, second grader Iain Johnson, age 8, declared the experience “Awesome.” When asked what portion of the reading he liked best, Johnson declared, “mostly the end.”
Classmate Micah Leonor, 8, said the book was “kinda’ funny. It told me more than I ever knew about the story.”
Inside the classroom, Coach Olivas had just finished reading to his group of three girls and two boys, and began a conversation with the lively students. When an observer asked the children whether they liked reading, 8-year-old second grader Korey Knight replied, “mostly fine.” When asked whether they like to have grownups read to them, Mavett Cueva, a classmate with long dark hair, directly responded, “No. I only like soccer players.”
After the various groups had finished reading with the players, they all converged on a grassy field in the middle of the campus and began a quick game. Trevino said his experience reading to the children was “great” and found the students’ varying personalities interesting. He said the students were very focused on him and his actions. “Any chance we can get we want to come out here,” he said. “We’re really here to help the community.”
From Fattic’s perspective, the reading exercise benefits her students by encouraging an appreciation for literature, she said. “They realize all age groups love reading. It helps validate an activity for growth in our lives.”
Watch a video of the Golden Eagles' week below.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University