By Kathy Walsh
DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Members of the Chaparral High School basketball team in Douglas County are scoring big on the court but also in an elementary school classroom.
The basketball players have had an impressive season and are now in the Class 5A Boys Sweet 16!
But twice a week, they find time to meet with fifth grade students at Pine Grove Elementary in Parker.
The players work with them on reading, math and other subjects. Educators say the athletes help the young kids build confidence.
“They have an impact,” said Michelle Parker, 5th grade teacher at Pine Grove.
For two years now, the players have formed a partnership with Mrs. Parker’s class.
On the day we visited, Chaparral junior and varsity forward Bryce Matthews was sorting out math problems with two young students.
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Chaparral junior and varsity point guard Tanner Giles was listening to 10-year-old Hayden Westenskow read.
It was Mrs. Parker’s idea to bring the athletes in to offer her sports-loving students good role models.
“A lot of times my kids will listen to the basketball players when they don’t listen to me, and it really, really helps,” she told CBS4’s Kathy Walsh.
At Pine Grove, the teenagers are like celebrities.
“They really inspire us. We talk about them every day at recess,” said Westenskow.
“Last time I was here when I was walking out some kid asked me for my autograph,” said Giles with a chuckle.
But the big kids benefit as well. Tellus Truesdale, Chaparral basketball head coach, said mentoring the little kids puts positive pressure on his players.
“I think it holds them accountable,” said Truesdale. “Because you can’t tell a kid ‘Do your work. Turn your stuff in’ and then you’re not doing it yourself.”
It turns out pairing high school athletes with elementary students is, in this case, a slam dunk. Mrs. Parker would like to see more partnerships.
“One of the easiest ways we can help kids go in the right direction is get them looped in with good role models and especially athletes,” she said.