From right to left, Soldotna High School football players Chet Syverson, Andrew Miller and Christos Asimakopoulos read to Lynn Dusek's second-grade classroom at Redoubt Elementary School earlier this month. Syverson, now a senior, had Dusek as a first-grade teacher.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Students at Redoubt and Soldotna elementary schools got a treat earlier this month when the biggest heroes they could imagine stopped by to share in their reading time.
“The students were sitting there in awe of these guys,” said Soldotna Elementary School Principal Carolyn Cannava.
“It was nice for the children to see a football player needs to read, too, and can enjoy reading. That’s what we’re after, so we’re hoping they come again. It was a big hit.”
Who were these heroes of the gridiron? It wasn’t Donovan McNabb or Tom Brady, but several members of the state champion Soldotna High School football team.
“It was fun. I really enjoyed watching their reaction they really liked it,” said Chet Syverson, a Soldotna senior who thought up the program, dubbed Project Star. “... A couple of players, some of the kids were asking for autographs.”
The players wore their game jerseys for the school visits, and spent time reading with kindergartners, first- and second-graders. They also shared personal experiences about reading.
“It was wonderful that they had given their time and taken on a whole class of kindergartners that takes courage, too but they did it. It was very successful,” Cannava said. “It was a surprise for the students. That made it even better. They were just so enamored with what was going on, and it helps us with reading.”
Syverson said he’s worked with younger kids through the Boys and Girls Club, and came up with the idea of visiting Soldotna’s elementary schools as a way to build a sense of community between schools.
“It’s my way of giving back to the community. It’s been a really great community to grow up in, and I thought it would be a great idea to help kids learn to read, and try to inspire them to read,” Syverson said.
Syverson got some help from his father, Soldotna High School Principal Todd Syverson, making contacts with elementary school principals, and with the enthusiasm of everyone involved, Project Star came together.
Chet Syverson said the plan is to make regular visits to the elementary schools with different groups of students. Other sports team will visit wearing their game jerseys, of course as well as other student groups, such as the National Honor Society.
“We’re going to have different groups go. (The plan is to have) different role models, and get a wide variety of kids interested,” Syverson said.
Cannava said the excitement lingered around the school after the players left, and she heard students later in the day talking excitedly about having football players read to them.
Cannava said the goal of the program is to get students “excited about reading, and understanding how important it is in everything you do, including something you love, which is usually football.”
Cannava said she also sees great potential in the community-building aspect of the program. Older students at Soldotna Elementary read with younger students, but visits from the high schoolers can expand their horizons.
“They can make connections with these people when they see them in the community. Literacy is a community project. It takes everybody. It takes high school kids, too,” Cannava said.
“It’s such a wonderful idea. I’m just hoping it keeps on going because it’s the beginning of a great idea, and a great sharing of expertise and talent and I think the high school kids got a kick out of how the kids looked up to them.”
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