Football players visit local elementary school to discuss health, academics, and sportsmanship.
By Marcia Sidney-Reed, Principal of 186th Street Elementary School
Last Friday, the boys and girls in the Wise Owl Nation at 186th Street School cheered for academics and fitness with athletes from the UCLA and USC football teams.
The day marked the 10th anniversary of the school’s Super Bowl School Spirit Day. Students, parents, staff, and teachers wore their favorite jerseys in the spirit of celebrating literacy and fitness for life.
Ric Coy, UCLA Associate Director of Academics and Student Services, and Linda Lassiter, UCLA Academic Counselor, brought five Division I student-athletes to interact with the elementary children, and Matt Ackels, USC Director of Community Outreach brought seven Trojans to join in the fun.
The day began with the Bruins and Trojans meeting each other and taking a group picture to establish unity for the day in the name of education.
The athletes then visited various classrooms to surprise the children with their presence and size. The students’ eyes lit up with excitement and sounds of joy echoed throughout the rooms as the student-athletes greeted each child with an encouraging high-five.
At the close of the school day, The Owls welcomed their guests with the school cheer and fight song. Next, Mr. Coy addressed the children and told them that none of the student-athletes would be standing before them if they had not done their work in the classroom.
Then each player introduced themselves and shared their position, their year in school, the high school they attended, and their academic major.
After the introductions, Matt Ackels shared the “4 Quarters” of the SCORE Initiative, USC Athletics’ cornerstone outreach endeavor: Physical Health, Academic Discipline, Teamwork, and Community Responsibility.
The players formed an academic huddle, and Anthony Neyer, a redshirt junior quarterback from USC, called the academic play encouraging the students to strive for excellence, respect their teachers, do their homework, and work hard to achieve their goals and dreams.
To cap off the events, the teachers and afterschool staff passed out activity cards for the children to get a free book, participate in the fun-filled activities, and of course, to get autographs.
For one day, the barriers that divide these teams and the city dissolved in honor of local children. “It’s a rivalry on the field, but off the field they are great guys and we always have a good time,” said Neyer, laughing at the thought of any bad blood.
“We wanted to come together to create the best for the children and the school,” said Bruin Running Back Ryan Davis.
Ultimately, the day proved as special for the athletes as it did for the kids. “I think we get more out of these types of events than the children.” said Neyer. “To see the community around us and spend time with these kids is always special.”
USC Players in attendance: Kenny Bigelow – Freshman DT, Jordan Austin – Freshman OL, J.R. Tavai – Junior LB, Christian Guzman – RS Freshman WR, Anthony Neyer – RS Junior QB, Devian Shelton – RS Freshman DB, and Ryan Dillard – Sophomore DB
UCLA Players in attendance: Ryan Davis – RS Freshman RB, Roosevelt Davis – RS Sophomore RB, Jayon Brown – Freshman ILB, Alex Staff – Freshman DB, Dylan Luther – Freshman DB