Huntington, Ind.—Huntington University’s baseball team will begin the second year of its literacy program in area elementary and middle schools today.
In 2005, former player Lance Chrisman, now a 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 29 players.
“They see the reaction they get when they arrive at the schools, and they know they are helping to make a difference,” Frame said.
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,” said junior Jeremy Rodibaugh, a pitcher and infielder for the Foresters, “but rather as real people who value assisting others.”
Each of the players involved in 2005-2006 donated an hour a week to helping students in grades first through eighth improve their reading skills.
“This year I’m going to a different elementary school, so I would like to establish some of the relationships I had last year with new kids," said junior pitcher Michael Dalton. “I also would like to establish with them how important reading is.”
In 2006-2007, the team hopes to continue to reach out to the students and be positive role models. For many of the students, just having someone older spend time with them brightened their day.
“Children will associate a certain status with athletes next to non-athletes, and naturally, they will look to the athletes as role models,” said junior centerfielder Keith Benbow. “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.
“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 help by motivating and helping in whatever way we can.”