As part of the 2005-2006 Verizon Reads program, senior Trent Huffman reads with Cory Smith and Kassie Beemer at Riverview Middle School. Huffman, a recreation management major from Angola, Ind., pitches for the Foresters.
Huntington, Ind.—Huntington University’s baseball team has begun the third year of its literacy program in area elementary and middle schools.
In 2005, former player Lance Chrisman, a former vice president for Verizon, contacted head coach Mike Frame about the team participating in the Verizon Reads program. Since its inception in 1999, the program has raised millions of dollars toward literacy programs across the nation.
Frame believes that Verizon Reads not only helps the children but also impacts his 24 players.
“We are at the point that we have more teachers making requests for players than we have players,” Frame said. “We also have players going back to the same schools for the second or third year to continue with relationships they built two or three years ago.”
The program gives the players an opportunity to reach out to the community and show that they are more than just students who stay in their college “bubble.”
“It allows the community to view the baseball team not just as players who want to play ball, but rather as real people who value assisting others,” said senior Jeremy Rodibaugh, a pitcher for the Foresters and a physical education major from Rensselaer, Ind.
Each of the players will donate an hour a week during the spring semester to helping students in grades first through eighth improve their reading skills.
“It provides an opportunity for the community to have a positive impression of our baseball program,” said senior pitcher Trent Huffman, a recreation management major from Angola, Ind. “It is great to see how much the kids look forward to our reading time each week. It is a win/win situation.”
This spring, the team hopes to continue to reach out to the students and be positive role models.
“We have one teacher that shared with me that she has a young boy in her class who thinks that ‘real men don’t read,’” Frame said. “Obviously, we hope to change his thinking!”
“Children will associate a certain status with athletes next to non-athletes, and naturally, they will look to the athletes as role models,” said senior centerfielder Keith Benbow, a recreation management major from Muncie, Ind. “When that athlete comes into their classroom to help them read, it puts the college athlete and the young student on the same level. That will make a young person feel good and hopefully give them a little more incentive to learn.”
The main goal for the program is to motivate the children to improve their reading skills. Frame insists that while the players are helping the students to improve, he gives the teachers the bulk of the credit.
“I really believe the teachers in the schools are the real heroes,” Frame said. “They are the ones that are teaching the skills on a daily basis. We want to have an impact by helping to motivate the kids.”
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