Second graders at Smith Elementary School were visited by athletes from Delaware Hayes High School and The Ohio State University Thursday as part of a push to bring the 2nd and 7 Foundation to every elementary in Delaware City Schools.
2nd and 7 is a foundation started by former Ohio State football players Ryan Miller, Tennessee Titans head football coach Mike Vrabel, and University of Cincinnati head football coach Luke Fickell, that organizes trips into second grade classrooms to have high school and college athletes read with students.
Thursday marked the program’s first visit to Smith as participants read books in the three second grade classes. District officials said Friday that athletes from the Ohio Wesleyan University chapter of 2nd and 7 have been visiting and reading to students at Conger Elementary School for the last six years.
Hayes Athletic Director Steve Glesenkamp said the district has been wanting to do something like the program for a while.
“We’ve always been looking for opportunities to give back and pay it forward, and this was an opportunity for us to get our student athletes from Hayes back into their elementary schools to read,” Glesenkamp said.
He said the visits are about more than just reading books.
“We’re just getting started,” Glesenkamp said. “A big part of it is reading for the second graders, but another part is the second graders making connections with role models who are athletes at the high school. The high school kids have an opportunity to go back to their elementary and really emphasize to the second graders the importance of reading and why we read. We’re hoping that by having the influence of the high school kids, the younger kids will look up and really see the value in daily reading.”
Glesenkamp said he was also pushed to get involved in the program because his daughter, Brooke, is a swimmer at OSU and has been visiting schools regularly as part of the program.
“She’s been doing this in the city of Columbus,” Glesenkamp said. “I’ve been hearing how successful it is, and we wanted to bring it to the city of Delaware and grow it. We’ll get some feedback on how we do today.”
Janet Kassoff, the senior program manager for Ohio’s division of 2nd and 7, said she’s excited to see the program come to Delaware. Kassoff added students read a book about manners Thursday to the youngsters, and each second grader was given a copy of the book to keep.
“We think reading is the most important foundation for students that will carry them for the rest of their lives,” Kassoff said. “But also, they are getting to have conversations about manners and other important life lessons. We’re excited for this program.”
Kassoff said the program doesn’t just help the second graders, it also helps teach the high school athletes as well.
“The program is equally beneficial for the second graders,” Kassoff said. “They’ll get a book to take home. They’ll get a visit from a role model they look up to in the community, and that role model will encourage them to be a good student and a good reader. It’s also beneficial for the high school athletes, because they are going to understand that kids are watching them, they have a very important platform, and they are going to do good with that platform.”
Glesenkamp said the current plan will have student athletes visit one elementary school a month until they’ve done them all this school year. Glesenkamp is hopefully that in the future, he will be able to organize two visits a month.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.