College students talk to 4th-graders
By Laurie Willis
Livingstone College’s men’s basketball team may be in a three-way tie for first place in the CIAA, but on Monday afternoon at Koontz Elementary School, academics was the subject du jour.
Dressed in their Livingstone College warm-up suits, the players told the students that while it’s fine to excel in sports, it’s even more important to do well academically.
“Basketball, football and baseball, those are temporary,” point guard Aaron “A.C.” Caruthers told a group of fourth-graders. “But once you obtain knowledge that’s something no one can take away from you. Continue to strive to better your grades and your education.”
When Caruthers, who with shooting guard Jarred Stockton leads the Blue Bears in scoring, asked some fourth- graders how many of them like getting something for free, virtually every hand in the room was raised.
“Well, if you do well in elementary, middle school and high school you can go to college for free on a scholarship,” said Caruthers, a senior sociology major who has a perfect 4.0 GPA.
He’s not the only player on Livingstone’s team doing well academically.
Tyler Johnson, a freshman biology major from Raleigh, and Jeremy Ford, a freshman business administration major from Varnville, S.C., are both Presidential Scholars. Head Coach James Stinson Jr. said many of the players have 3.0 GPAs or higher.
“It’s just good to be able to help the kids out,” said Johnson. “A lot of them want to go to the NBA. I see (far) too often where kids have a certain goal of the NBA or NFL and it doesn’t work out, so it’s good to have someone early on tell them they need to focus on academics.”
Ford said it’s important for kids to have realistic goals. He has worked at a boys and girls clubs back home, is used to interacting with kids and said he’s glad to be able to serve as a positive role model for them because “many don’t have a role model to look up to.”
King Cannon, a senior sociology major from York, S.C., said it’s important for kids to realize that academics and family must come before athletics.
“We tell them it’s OK to think about the NBA or NFL but to make sure they’ve got a second option,” Cannon said.
Monday’s trip was arranged by Vincia Benjamin, Koontz’s On-Track Manager for Communities in Schools, and Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Michael Cheaney.
“I think everything went well,” Benjamin, a 2005 Livingstone graduate, said Monday afternoon. “I’m really, really thankful to the team for taking time out to come to our school and letting the fourth- and fifth-graders see that there’s more to life than just sports and they must get an education first. The teachers were very appreciative of their services and hope the team can return in the spring.”
Stinson said the players’ trip to Koontz Elementary, named after Livingstone alumnus Elizabeth Duncan Koontz, is in keeping with the mission of Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins.
“It’s part of his vision to make sure we’re well rounded and preparing our students for the global society,” Stinson said. “Our biggest challenge was to come out and provide the youth a chance to see the advantages of getting a quality education and where it can take you.”
Stockton, who at 6 feet 5 inches towered over the kids and even some of his teammates, said the outing was especially meaningful to him because he has two young sons.
“I’m a father myself, and anytime you can show leadership to the young kids, give them something to look up to, I think that’s a good thing,” said Stockton, a junior sociology major from Jacksonville, Fla. “I think that’s what’s missing in a lot of kids’ lives today ó leadership and role models.”
Although the kids asked the players questions ranging from who was the MVP to whether any of them had attended a Super Bowl to who was best at playing video games, it appears the players’ message wasn’t lost on them.
Kyle Wright, 10, said the visit from team was helpful.
“I actually liked it,” the fourth-grader said. “It actually helps me learn because I didn’t know you needed the grades to get on the team. I just thought you had to be good.”
Fifth-graders Kameron Caldwell and Tywun Rivens, who said they were impressed with the players’ high GPAs, seemed to get it, too.
“To succeed in elementary school is the key to going to middle school, high school and college,” said Tywun. When kids think about their future and stuff they tend to think about sports, but they need to think more about their grades.”
Also Monday, 11 Livingstone students read with some kindergartners and first- graders.
The reading volunteers were Jemere Brown, Sylvia Brown, William Carmichael, Justin Carter, Ameerah Chambers, Tenise Henson, Mary Littlejohn, Jakeniqua Manning, Samuel Robbins, Dominique Tucker and Ky’Esha Wright.