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Friday, January 21, 2011

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basketball teams read, dance with youths

During winter break, the Muhlenberg Austin Curry women’s basketball team had a morning pregame ritual including a trip to Panera. But on January 13, that routine was changed for a trip to Allentown’s Jefferson Elementary School for an early Martin Luther King Jr. Day visit to read to the first- and fourth-grade classes. This was the first time the women’s basketball team was involved in the event, which has been done by the men’s team for the past few years.

After a quick shootaround, the teams loaded up into vans and cars to head over to the local elementary school. For a few of the younger Mules, including Katy Mitton, Erin Laney, Matt O’Hara, Timmy Harwood and me, who are studying to become teachers, this was an exciting first look into the schools of Allentown, while for some of the upperclassmen, including Sheila Cook and David Gwyn, it was a sweet return trip to remind them why they chose this career path.

As we walked into the school, the first thing everyone noticed was the tiny gym completely full of kindergarten students running around. When everyone had arrived we were split into groups of three or four players to each classroom and then parted ways to begin our visit with the students.

In each classroom, we introduced ourselves by telling the class Alexandra Chili our name, our class year and what we are studying at Muhlenberg. After introductions and questions about the hard work that goes into being a college athlete, and a few claims at basketball greatness (Ellen Rich was challenged to one-on-one by a fourth-grade student), we read a book about Martin Luther King Jr. called Martin’s Big Words.

Once the students shared their knowledge of MLK, we had them draw pictures of their own dreams, just like Martin’s. Many were inspired by the players’ career choices, deciding that they wanted to be doctors, lawyers or teachers. We even had some future NBA and NFL stars! In one class, Alexandra Chili, Kevin Hargrove and Justin Greenstone were taught how to do the “Tootie Ta” dance by their first-graders.

When our visit was over we said goodbye to the students, who were still in awe at the size of the players, and hoped we left a lasting impression. This was an enlightening experience for all of us, helping us realize how much of an impact we have on young children, and teaching us the importance of being role models in our own communities.

Like Martin Luther King Jr., we had a dream to inspire these children to be whatever they want to be. Little do they know that they’ve inspired us too: Look out for any Mules dancing the “Tootie Ta”!
— by Leeann Lanza

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