This blog was written by Chris Kelly, associate vice president for university marketing and communication. You can follow him on Twitter at @Grillaguy1.
My first personal interaction with a professional athlete took place in my hometown of Independence, Kansas.
I was a third grader at Lincoln Elementary School and intently listening to my teacher when this giant of a man walked through the doorway.
Okay … Okay … I wasn’t intently listening to my third grade teacher. I believe I was actually staring out the window and counting the minutes until recess when the giant walked through the doorway. (When you’re a third-grader, recess is everything!)
His name was Scott Hastings and he was the tallest man I had ever seen. (He was only 6-10, but to a third grader he may as well have been Andre the Giant)
Scott was an Independence kid who happened to be one heck of a great basketball player. After playing at the University of Arkansas, he was drafted into the NBA and would eventually play for the New York Knicks, the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat, the Detroit Pistons and the Denver Nuggets.
Scott’s mother happened to work for the school district, and she thought it would be nice to have him drop by the class.
I was impressed. Not just with Scott’s height, but the way in which he held himself in the classroom. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. This guy is from my hometown. He may have been sitting in this classroom a few years ago.”
I don’t really remember what he said that day, but I know that it somehow made me feel special.
Pittsburg elementary students are enjoying this same experience thanks to a new program by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at Pittsburg State University.
It’s called “Mathletes,” and it’s the result of nearly a year’s worth of planning by SAAC. (Here’s a great video of the program)
“We got the idea last year,” said Erica Testa, an education major and cross country team member. “I volunteered because of my major. We’ve been meeting with principals, developing lesson plans and having a lot of meetings.”
As you might imagine, the “Mathlete” program combines athletics and math skills. Students are asked math questions and have the opportunity to play with the same Gorilla athletes they see on the playing fields and courts.
“The kids are super excited to see us,” said Testa. “The second time we visited a school I asked them (the students) what we did last time and they said ‘sports and math’ and they weren’t even disappointed. They really liked it.”
Pittsburg State’s “Mathlete” program is a wonderful example of the deep connection Pittsburg State University has with its city. Perhaps best of all, it was created by student-athletes who want to give back to their community.